Album Review: The Streets – Computers and Blues (679)

It’s not up there with his early highs, but Mike Skinner’s last hurrah bows out with a trademark brazen swagger

“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”, runs ‘Lock The Locks’, the serene, bubbling house closer of ‘the last [a]Streets[/a] album’.

Such is the mood of Mike Skinner’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, ‘Computers And Blues’ is an attempted update of Skinner’s less troubled, coquettish early days. From its cover in, there’s a knowing, bustling swagger to The Streets’ finale, if only in its relishing of a quick dart for the exit.

‘Going Through Hell’ is as blatant a balls-out final lap siren as he can muster, with Robert Harvey (the gobby lad from [a]The Music[/a]) leering like a drunken spectre. Overdriven slam beats – like a cidery ‘99 Problems’ – wade in all brash and bolshy, with Skinner, in black, biblical verse, sneering to the heavens one last time.

More often than not though, the beats are pulsing and cloudy, emerging from the hall of records he was first heard reciting: “Johnny Walker, Paul Oakenfold, Nicky Holloway, Danny Rampling”. The words are stripped-back and assured, exorcising the skittish wordy demons that haunted the emaciated white-suited figure of ‘The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living’.

‘Puzzled By People’ is as much anyone could have asked for, a return to his sweetest form; blustery live-jam rolls and dead-eyed divas hurtle from behind the shoulders of Sunday-morning choirs. There’s a slow-oozing serotonin to ’lektro-throbbing ‘Soldiers’ and a narrative playfulness to ‘OMG’ and then ‘Trying To Kill ME’, recalling a hopeful, pre-comedown Mike. ‘Trust Me’ is strident NRG-charged disco that darts from dancefloor delinquency to quick-fire sloganeering in a truly vintage fashion. It lays bare Skinner’s lyrical stance for his last hurrah, with titillating confessional patter giving way to a classier, hazier rumination.

Undeniably it’ll never be this incarnation that is recalled in 20-odd years’ time when folk dissect [a]The Streets[/a]. Most likely that’ll be the leaner bark of the young chap from Brum that showed up out of thin-air and bulldozed the playing field of British urban-pop, twice. But topping those untouchable classics was never going to be easy. Still, it’s nice to know that, true to form, if Skinner’s shutting up shop, he’s not mugging his punters off.

Jaimie Hodgson


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