Mike Skinner just won’t shut the fuck up. You’d think that after conquering drug abuse (now demoted from drug abuser to simply drug user), having a childhood friend expose him as a phony, getting over the girl at the gates, getting over the girl who was whoring it up with Dan, losing a small fortune and then finding it inside his T.V., and becoming a darling here in the States and downright hero back home, Skinner would finally look at his ATM receipt (insufficient funds no longer) and finally smile. No dice.
Playing the tortured celebrity is a tough sell—you can complain all you want, but we normal folk find it hard to believe that the more money you come across the more problems you see. At least Biggie had some perspective; he really did come from nothing. Skinner, however, has had his legitimacy questioned from the very beginning of attention thrown at Original Pirate Material. Oddly, the typically cynical music media wasn’t the source—a friend of Skinner’s prepared a lengthy written rant exposing lots of tidbits on his personal life that would’ve probably been embarrassing had it not consisted of mostly high-school gossip material like the ugly shirt Mike used to wear out to clubs. Music critics fell in love with Pirate‘s obsession with dingy British urban life and its dangers, whether the words were born of experience or passive observation didn’t seem to enter into the equation. We’ve had lots of experience hearing people complain about their shitty upbringings, so that didn’t bother anyone in particular. And besides, no one had expressed their hardships like that. You know, like that. We even gave Skinner a second pass—in fact, called him a genius—when he spent the entirety of A Grand Don’t Come For Free spilling his heart amidst a pile of empty cans. We’ve all had our hearts stomped on, and there was still that way of storytelling and delivery that made his first album so enthralling. But, really, what would Skinner complain about on his third album? I hoped he’d find something.