Saturday, April 29, 2006

Review: The Streets, "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living"

This is the third album from Mike Skinner, a.k.a. The Streets. This British rapper’s first two albums (Original Pirate Material, 2002, and A Grand Don’t Come For Free, 2004) are among the highest quality in lyricism, beat composition, and overall sound production. Original Pirate Material is exactly what you would expect: guerilla samplings layered over stunning beats, with occasional bursts of lyrical genius. “A Grand” is a bit of a departure and represents the first-ever British hip-hopera, according to my infinite knowledge at least. The sound is relatively the same with production skill, lyrics, and songwriting all elevated.

Skinner has a lot to live up to with “Hardest Way…” and he doesn’t disappoint.

Released on 4/25/06, “The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living” finds Skinner in a different place. This album is not about the struggles of a poor London boy, but rather about the trappings of fame. With songs about cocaine use (Pranging Out), destroying hotel rooms (Hotel Expressionism), and extravagant spending (Memento Mori), he loses the common man appeal that worked for him “when you wasn’t famous.”

In an exclusive interview on the iTunes version of the disc, Skinner states, “I don’t think this album is as much about empathy... it is as honest, if not more honest than the previous albums…I don’t expect anyone to feel sorry for me, and I think you could have done that on the previous albums.” This is interesting because he sees the transition to fame and is aware of the dangers associated, but still writes an honest record that shows (at least a little bit) of what ego does to a man of humble roots.

Skinner stands on his head producing this record. Listen to the opening seconds of “Pranging Out,” and be blown away.

Though due to his fame we lose contact with Mike Skinner on this album, he manages to not alienate us completely by just writing good songs.

RIYL: Dizzee Rascal, Sway DaSafo, DANGERDOOM


Samuel Bills said...

The standard for whiny sad about being about being a rock star writing was set in my mind by kid rock on "Only God Knows Why" - that was sheer misery.
Thanks for the review alien. I will have to check this one out.
Here is my question - when you're an English thug who wears adidas trackies and white t-shirts and then you get really rich do you still wear trackies? I mean there iis definitely a designer equivalent to the street clothes that rappers from the states where pre-first million - does the same go for English rap stylings?


Short answer...yes, there is that same designer version of pre-million threads.

The review mentions an article on the iTunes version of the album. In the middle of the interview, he's talking about a job he had "moving pipes" and how he had an irrational fear of wearing workboots. The interviewer says, "now you don't have to, now you can wear (points at Skinner's shoes)." Skinner says, "Now I can wear Espadrille loafer hybrids." To which the interviewer responds, "ok, half of your audience just disappeared."

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that picture is not Rob Thomas from Matchbox 20 - I mean I have never noticed the resemblance before

danszombathy said...

I really liked Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don't Come For Free. But they didn't really stick to the ribs. So I wasn't planning to pick up The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living.

But if Alien Corpse says to try it out, I try it out. So I immediately downloaded The Hardest Way and, wow, I cannot listen to anything else! This is definitely the best thing Mike Skinner has done.

Many of the reviews have been slamming Mike's "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here" theme on this album. But the stories and characters on this album are so much more interesting and diabolical than anything else Mike's come up with. A +++