Mike Skinner's cockney argot and squirrelly cynicism always play well stateside -- even if the U.S. audience consists of more hipsters than hip-hop heads -- but back in the land of boiled meat he's huge. Maybe that's the problem. The woes of superstardom dominate Skinner's third release, finding the once-affable pub crawler chugging brandy, huffing rails, and tearing ass around Vegas in an unlicensed Ferrari (Joe Walsh called, wants his song back). The woe-is-famous-me routine sounds odd to American ears (he addresses the continental divide of his stardom in "Two Countries," telling us, "I've sold three million and you've never heard of me"), but hearing scrappy little Skinner bitching about bad promoters, tour budgeting, and rock star isolationism is downright gauche. When he finds meaningful inspiration -- the "War of the Sexes" or his father's death in "Never Went to Church" -- the inventive observations that blew him up in the first place are certainly redemptive. But hearing Skinner sing about wrecking his hotel room begs the question his debut so insistently demanded: Has it come to this?
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