Album Reviews

The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come For Free

(679) UK release date: 10 May 2004


The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free Ever had one of those days where you just felt like you would have been better off staying in bed? Well, A Grand Don’t Come For Free tells that tale. With the follow up to The Streets‘ seminal Original Pirate Material, Mike Skinner is attempting to show that his debut success was not just a fluke.

It Was Supposed To Be So Easy opens in grandiose fashion with big band backing. The characteristic rants prove The Streets are sticking to their best urban commentary, describing the perennial problem of “insufficient funds”, phones dying and losing cash left in your mates’ possession. Maybe Mike should’ve stayed in bed, but we’re glad he didn’t.

Mr Skinner has said that in writing this album he took experiences from those around him. Could Well Be In is more than likely to be one of them – starting with a girl’s broken relationship, then taking a cheeky dig at TV with the chorus: “I saw this thing on ITV the other week, that if she played with her hair she’s probably keen.” We’ve all taken too much notice of the box once in a while.

Not Addicted adds much needed pace to the album, with an upbeat electro/drum beat, which is taken that one step further in Blinded By The Light. Although it’s a fair bit slower and in a similar vein to Weak Become Heroes, the beat is infectious and the female backing vocals add up to a very special track.

Get Out Of My House takes a bit of a UK Garage feel with a fairly satirical rap opening the track. It then evolves into a tale of sorting drugs and low-key aggression, spiralling into a mockery of verbal fights and general confusion. Which all leads nicely into the “lads on tour” anthem Fit But You Know It. The first single from A Grand Don’t Come Free will more than likely be played to death over the summer, but its brutal honesty and summery vibe make it worthy of its place.

Unfortunately, holidays means a return home, and the uncomfortable plane journey that that entails. The inevitable return leads to reminiscing over all the stupidity resulting from “smashing glasses down at George Best’s best session rate”. Maybe that’s a bit of a risqué reference, but it is reality that the Streets comment on – definitely “like it or lump it” stuff.

Forthcoming single Dry Your Eyes takes a completely unexpected turn – take Don’t Mug Yourself and replace all the comedy with genuine sincerity. Yet listen to It’s Too Late from Original Pirate Material and the element of surprise is taken away. Still, the sentiment is touching.

So how to close such an album? A steady drum beat, and raw aggression – “Everyone’s a c**t in this life / No-one’s there for me,” followed by the chorus, “No-one gives a crap about Mike / That’s why I’m acting nasty.” Until there’s one final twist in the tale, self-realisation occurs with the rewinding of the track. It wasn’t such a bad day after all.

The story told in each song links to make the album like a diary, yet each track has varying levels of brilliance when standing on their own. This album should be filed under “essential”. Somehow the progression from Original Pirate Material has created something sharper and cleaner in the form of A Grand Don’t Come For Free.


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More on The Streets
The Streets – The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light
The Streets – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive
The Streets – Computers And Blues
The Streets + Santigold @ Roundhouse, London
The Streets – Everything Is Borrowed