The Streets – Computers and Blues

written by: March 7, 2011
Release Date: February, 7 2011


Listeners can’t deny Original Pirate Material. That wide-eyed kid—the Brum smitten with the curse of spittin’—Mike Skinner’s debut effort has since been elevated to classic status; its garage sounds tore apart the existing sound, influencing just about every young Brit with a microphone and a laptop that came after.

Skinner became godfather of the new scene, a household name in the UK and, after the follow-up success of A Grand Don’t Come for Free, took to launching other 679 artists; The Mitchell Brothers, Kano and most recently Professor Green. For the last time, he’s back, vowing to “go out without a blink.”

Computers and Blues is the artist doing his best phoenix, emerging optimistically from the ashes of The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living and Everything is Borrowed for a long-awaited curtain call.

With his latest and last, Skinner, who once professed, “a few eighths and a Playstation’s my vocation” has returned to prime form; it has shades of the breakbeat sampling, the honest self-evaluation and live instrumentation of his previous albums, making for one hell of a farewell letter. After a decade of mostly good memories, he lets us believe it’s not us, it’s him.

Mikey is the diamond of wit, it doesn’t come sharper. Lines like “I see Alice in Wonderland/I see malice in Sunderland” (Without Thinking) or “I’m pretty good at puzzles but puzzled by people” (Puzzled By People) remind you of the geeky youngster that dared to push things forward, only this joint comes dripping in swagger. Donning rocknrolla shades, guest Robert Harvey (The Music) wails over hammering guitars, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Skinner wanted the album to carry deep dance sounds of Berlin, but it never quite shakes its twenty-something, chip-shop Englishness.

There is perhaps no MC more blessed with the voice of the everyman; brazen, banal and often contemplative with dub beats, deft, dark lyricism and unparalleled cut-ups, Skinner waxes secular with street smart sensibility.

His flow verges on spoken-word, rhythmically there’s nothing he can’t fit. The subplot of the artist’s heartbreak, his disillusionment with the music scene, “I am just a child who got a few years older,” makes Computers and Blues all the more glum, all the more pointed.

The work builds anticipation like a symphony. By the time the now familiar single “Trust Me” drops—the fanfare of horns digitized and broken—listeners are dying to see how it all ends. The curtains open on the final act. I’m packing up my desk/Put it into boxes/Knock out the lights/Lock the locks and leave.”

It’s not a classic but when there are two, it’s hard to outlive your own legacy. Kudos to the band for never looking back despite the catcalls piling up. On the breakup song, “We Can Never Be Friends,” Skinner concedes, “This is us fizzling, but with added little pangs/We’ve reached the end, you’ll never see me again.” With Computers and Blues he proves undeniably, despite falling off—he’s still and forever will be The Streets. Has it come to this?

Goodbye Mike.

The Streets – Computers and Blues tracklist:

  1. “Outside Inside”
  2. “Going Through Hell”
  3. “Roof of Your Car”
  4. “Puzzled by People”
  5. “Without Thinking”
  6. “Blip on a Screen”
  7. “Those That Don’t Know”
  8. “Soldiers”
  9. “We Can Never Be Friends”
  10. “Abc”
  11. “OMG”
  12. “Trying to Kill Me”
  13. “Trust Me”
  14. “Lock the Locks”