There's a pretty relaxed vibe to this album; it's not chillout music or anything, but it feels like the end of an era, in that it's warm and vaguely wistful, but not really immediate. In true Skinner style, he's going out sounding as he started, with a spliff and a reflective whisky, rather than with a bombastic bang. This is the last Streets album, and it's no exaggeration to say they encapsulated some people's youth, especially if you were into them between 2002 and 2005. `A Grand Don't Come For Free' has an incredible nostalgic emotional resonance to me and several people I know, and it's not just our rose tinted classes; most end of decade lists had The Streets top ten, with The Guardian claiming `Original Pirate Material' was the best album off the 00's [not sure I agree, but still...].
Quality wise it's been downhill since the first two releases, but as a final album this is a more than respectable effort. His flow isn't great these days, but as a beat-maker he's maturing with age like a fine wine, and will craft a fine career as a producer if he wants to stay on behind the scenes in the music business. Lyrically he's preoccupied with technology, with liberal references to Google, Facebook etc, and is essentially wondering about electronics and their relation to human emotions, with copious weed references, for old times' sake.
Nothing on here is going to match the finest songs he's written [Weak Become Heroes, Blinded By The Lights etc], but if you go in with lower expectations, you'll be pleasantly surprised to find fourteen very enjoyable, nicely crafted tracks. `Blip on a Screen', `Puzzled By People' and `Trust Me' are my favourites so far. Also, if you get his `pre-album' Cyberspace and Reds, released for free online two weeks ago, there's another thirteen good songs with a plethora of fine guest verses from various grime artists, which this album could have done with. Either way, he's released almost thirty good songs in the last month, which is pretty impressive by anyone's standards, let alone from someone apparently bored with the music industry and past his prime as a relevant songwriter. It's hard to criticise, since Skinner seems such a likeable dude, and in fact `likeable' is probably the best way to describe this LP. Not a classic, but likeable at least, and sometimes that's all you need.