Release Date: Feb 7, 2011
Record label: 679 Recordings
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
It’s the end of an era. Since his 2002 debut album Original Pirate Material, The Streets, the nom de plume of rapper Mike Skinner, has created a rich catalog of meaningful raps forged by the sounds of the alternative hip-hop and UK garage movements. Now, Skinner plans to leave behind his famous moniker for an as-yet-unknown creative future. But as a parting gift, the MC leaves fans with two albums: the mixtape Cyberspace and Reds and his fifth LP Computers and Blues.
[i]“I’m packing up my desk/Put it into boxes/Knock out the lights/Lock the locks and leave/I’ll leave one evening, and be seen off by a party for my parting in a bar”[/i], runs [b]‘Lock The Locks’[/b], the serene, bubbling house closer of ‘the last [a]Streets[/a] album’. Such is the mood of [b]Mike Skinner[/b]’s resignation letter: relieved. With its pre-ambling three years of huffing, puffing and blowing his own – creative, possibly literal – house down, what else would you expect? Following two albums of voyeuristic tabloid pranging and eventual bare-boned reflection, [b]‘Computers And Blues’[/b] is an attempted update of Skinner’s less troubled, coquettish early days.
Arguably one of the defining voices of his generation, urban raconteur Mike Skinner's early-noughties tales of clubbing, comedowns, and "chav culture" initially saw him hailed as a modern-day Keats. But following the self-indulgent meltdown of 2006's The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living and the "philosophy for beginners" approach of 2008's Everything Is Borrowed, the Brummie maverick's uniquely relatable poetic license appeared to have expired. However, his fifth studio LP, Computers and Blues, his last to be recorded under the guise of the Streets, sees him return to his more popular "everyman" persona again on a concept album that perhaps captures the Zeitgeist just as much as his first two celebrated efforts.
If Mike Skinner is sick of the Streets, what are the rest of us supposed to make of his purported final album under the moniker? Computers and Blues isn’t always the send-off we might have hoped we’d receive, but that might at least partially lie in our own lofty expectations. He’s been hit and miss in the past, but as a whole, Skinner has been a constant reminder that top quality hip-hop isn’t the sole domain of the United States. The constant comparisons to Eminem must get tiresome, because for most fans of the Streets, Skinner’s innate ability to tap into the malaise of Average Joes is far more successful than Marshall Mathers’ own efforts in the same genre.
The Streets - Computer And Blues Mike Skinner says this fifth studio album is the end of the road for the Streets, an announcement that probably won't upset a lot of us. Not that we want Skinner to disappear. He's obviously creative enough to explore new paths. But the naval-gazing of the Streets' Brit-rap has felt maxed-out since 2006's The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living.
If this is the final Streets album, then Mike Skinner is leaving as he came in: talking about getting stoned over homemade beats. Whether you think his calculated artlessness reinvented British urban music or just took the mickey a bit, Skinner has remained true to himself. Computers and Blues filters its poppy hooks through neat tricks, which when they work – as on Without Thinking – are hard to resist.
Time to say goodbye Baby-faced beatmaker Mike Skinner can work magic with a rhyme. On Computers and Blues’ first track, he raps: “The world is outside but inside warm, inside informal, outside stormy, inside normal.” Unfortunately, the man behind The Streets takes his iambic leaning too far sometimes, and his latest—and final—album showcases this tendency. He becomes downright Seussian on “Roof of Your Car,” saying “I wish on a star, I wish for a bar with a cigar.” “Abc,” meanwhile, is brought to you by Elmo gone hip-hop with the declaration “A: You can’t say what you B, I don’t see what you C,” and so on, sadly, to Z.
Back in the early 00s, Mike Skinner and James Murphy both seemed like transformative figures: two charismatic producer/talkers with rhythm, intelligence, senses of humor, and senses of gravitas. Both were innovators who existed at once inside and outside a pair of emerging genres (grime and dance-punk, respectively), and both focused so fully on their own tiny corners of existence that they made those experiences tangible to people who only had the slightest idea what they were talking about. Now, a decade later, both are preparing to say goodbye to their signature projects.
It’s been about a decade now since The Street’s Original Pirate Material hit. This is distressing for a host of more personal reasons (at what age can we mourn the passage of time without being rightfully accused of stupid maudlin self-pity?), but I’d prefer to focus (please) on how the world has changed around Mike Skinner. It’s safe to say that none of the same sorts of people who panted and sweated over Pirate — that is, teenagers and young adults who used to read music reviews and go to clubs and such — did the same over Computers and Blues.
Three immediate and profound musical truths spring to my mind. Firstly: Tom Waits has never released a bad album. Secondly: The Saturdays are fucking appalling. And thirdly; if you mention The Streets to anyone who has a passing interest in them, at least 85 per cent will furrow their brow, hitch up their pants and mutter something along the lines of 'Well, I loved their first couple of albums'.
Mike Skinner’s final album might just be his very best. Lou Thomas 2011 After five albums recording as The Streets, Brummie exile Mike Skinner has spat his last rap and built his last beat. He should be proud: Dylan Mills aside there hasn’t been another consistently exciting and commercially successful urban UK voice to touch him over the last decade.