Mike Skinner is Britian’s great success story, recording and mixing his early work in a basement and doing his own marketing early on. Calling himself “The Streets,” Mike went on to prove that the only thing that it takes to make music these days is an original message and a lot of determination.
Weak Become Heroes
While it could be argued t hat there’s no real point to this song, unlike many other songs by The Streets, it was one of their first successes, likely because of the ease with which it sums up the daily experience of Generation X in England.
Consider this a tour around southern England by a group of 20-somethings losing and finding themselves among drugs, friends, and the club scene. It might seem trivial, but the chorus, “the weak become heroes when the stars align,” speaks volumes about Skinner’s generation – the youth of today have a strong connection to music and society that can rarely be captured, although this song certainly manages to do a good job of it.
Let’s Push Things Forward
This straightforward critique of the music industry criticized both the industry itself and the customers who “complain that everything that sounds the same, then you go buy them.” While this isn’t the first time this has been done, it becomes terribly important to note that all of the work done by the Streets was independently written, recorded and mixed. Not only does Skinner lodge a complaint, but he does so with integrity, offering his fans something new and different, imploring them to “push things forward” and “don’t conform to standards,” and think for themselves.
Don’t Mug Yourself
How many times have any of us gone on a date, had a great time, and then sat, staring at our phones, wondering whether or not we should call? This is the subject matter of this upbeat single, wherein the singer’s friends intervene and take his phone away so that he can’t appear over-eager to his new potential love interest. The title phrase, “don’t mug yourself,” is British slang for “don’t make an idiot of yourself,” or “get a grip.”
Mike Skinner takes a direct approach and attempts to give the world a little advice with this song, suggesting that life’s essentially a rollercoaster – sometimes you’re at the top, and sometimes you’re at the bottom, and while the things around you never change, your perspective does, depending on where you’re standing. To those envious of his success, he offers, “maybe I’m better looking than you though, maybe I’ve got more money than you, but am I happier? No. Get the love of a good girl and your world will be much better than my world, and your happiness will uncurl.” Skinner suggests that those down on their luck “stay positive” because their efforts will eventually get them where they’re trying to go, but he warns those who are happy and successful that things can change in an instant – no one stays on top forever.
It Was Supposed to Be So Easy
A Grand Don’t Come For Free is an amazing narrative effort, remniscent of the works of such authors as Irvine Welsh, and this track, the first on the album, sets the stage perfectly. As the speaker goes through his day, trying to complete a list of errands, everything goes wrong. We’ve all had days like this; days where our cell phones die, we lose our wallets, trip over our own feet. This track lays down the groundwork for the rest of the album, which is all connected in the same storyline.
Could Well Be In
This second track on A Grand Don’t Come For Free shows our narrator out on a first date with a girl who works with one of his friends. Think of it as a running commentary on the date – we hear everything that Mike thinks about this girl while they’re out; he talks about her chat on her cell phone, getting up to get more drinks, and the somewhat self-conscious analysis of her behavior, where he states, “I say this thing on my tv the other week, said if she plays with her hair she’s probably keen/ she’s playing with her hair, well, regularly, so I reckon I could well be in.”
Fit But You Know It
As “fit” is British slang for “hot” or “good-looking,” this song is a pivotal point on A Grand Don’t Come For Free. Frustrated by his unquestionably unfortunate circumstances, Mike goes out to a local fast-food restaurant and begins hitting on a girl who he describes as “an eight or a nine, maybe a nine and a half in four beers’ time” despite already being in a relationship with someone else. When the girl doesn’t give him the time of day and instead leaves with someone else, the narrator grows angry, stating that her problem is, “yeah, you’re feel fit, and sure, I do want it, but my gosh… don’t you just know it?”
Dry Your Eyes, Mate
Perhaps one of the best breakup songs of all time, the penultimate track off A Grand Don’t Come For Free sees the end of the relationship begun in “Could Well Be In” and subsequently sabotaged in “Fit But You Know It.” The chorus is a bit of advice to the speaker from his friends while he flails, trying to keep his girlfriend from breaking up with him, “dry your eyes, mate/ I know you want to make her see how much this pain hurts, but you’ve got to walk away now; it’s over.” What makes this song great is its gut-wrenching honesty as well as its universality. You can almost see the speaker as he stands, reaching our for his girlfriend, and she “turned, looked back, and then walked away.”
This particular track comes in two parts, showing the difference one’s attitude can make. In the first version of the song, Mike lets his anger get the best of him, and after a fight with a television repairman, he sits by himself with none of the issues building up in the album at all resolved. In the second version, our narrator choses to bury the hatchet and trust his friends for the long haul, and we see a resolution to all the previous problems, though the main message of the song lies beyond the narrative, to the bit of advice at the end: “it is true; no one’s really fighting for you in the last garrison, no one except yourself, no one except you – you are the one who’s got your back until the last day is done.”
When You Wasn’t Famous
Off the newest “The Streets” album, When You Wasn’t Famous combines Mike’s charming southern English accent with his standard male mentality. In this track, he complains about performing when his audience has camera phones, comments on how much easier dating is when you’re famous… until you realize that the kind of girls you want to date also happen to be famous, in which case you’re back to the normal boy meets normal girl equation. In short, fame is good for impressing people… but only to an extent.