So I have a confession to make before I lose my reviewing virginity. This is more easing myself into the training pool wearing armbands than jumping in at the deep end. I am a big fan of The Streets, in that classic anorakfan manner “I own everything they have ever done”. Admittedly, I’m cheating a little when it comes to background knowledge. However, perhaps my fondness for Mike Skinner will be too obvious in this review? Perhaps you will see a clouded judgement? Or maybe I will offer you a perfectly balanced and insightful review? Either way, be sure to get involved at let me know….
Mike Skinner won’t be going anywhere fast, he has too much fun with Twitter (and at the Guardian) for a start, but The Streets are no more. Thank f*** for that. Don’t get me wrong, I am not revelling in the departure of The Streets, instead I am chuffed they have managed to bow out in style.
Having been astonished by how lazy and uninspired their last album, Everything is Borrowed, was back in 2008, this finale needed to re-establish Skinner’s street cred gained from the highly acclaimed first two albums Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free. Computers and Blues is the perfect antidote for a disillusioned Streets fan.
Lyrically, the customary Skinner bluster is still present but the in-yer-face narrative bravado is gone, replaced instead by sporadic lyrical bursts self-reference mixed with some of Skinner’s social philosophy.
Increasingly Skinner is more reflective of the society he chooses to depict – ‘OMG’ is a face-slappingly simple representation of how submersed we are in Facebook. Whilst Skinner is probably a few years late with a track about everyone’s favourite method of procrastination, a catchy pop chorus helps me forget the not-so-current subject matter. ‘Trying to Kill M.E’, is refreshingly poetic, briefly harking back to the hopeful optimism and self-reflection which epitomised many tracks on Skinner’s first two albums.
‘Puzzled by People’ and the line “Loving isn’t easy, you can’t google the solutions to people’s feelings”, offers an example of one of the things Skinner does best, taking various complex topics for discussion and giving them to you straight; no bullshit. The addition of Robert Harvey from The Music on ‘Going through hell’, which will be the first single from the album, and ‘Soldiers’, is an excellent move, his crisp and more musical tones complimenting the dull monotone of Skinner’s rap.
Despite being an impressive fifth instalment, Computers and Blues is not without its serious disappointments. There is lack of a more emotive verse on ‘Blip on a screen’ which seems to waste an excellent opportunity to achieve the laddish emotions of ‘Dry your eyes mate’ (A Grand Don’t Come for Free). The robotic beat and repetition not reflective of the subject matter; his first child. Considering the love he showed for his Dad in ‘Never Went for Church’ (Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living) I was confused by this track.
Both ‘ABC’ and ‘Trust Me’ flatter to deceive. Aggressive instrumentals fail to hide lazy lyrics about ‘malice in Sunderland’ and there is a real lack of substance to either track.
In the final track, ‘Lock the Locks’, Skinner states how his “heart has left” and, cramming in about any metaphor about departure, he makes it pretty clear that this is the end. An excellent example of the subtle element of the album comes with one of the final lines of this song where Skinner confesses to realising that the only ‘mug’ in the room is “yours truly cos I never stood up for what I wanted to do.”
The man will always have more to offer, always have unfinished business. It’s just he can’t be bothered anymore. The effortless lad poet, I hope Skinner never makes another album because this is the perfect farewell.
Computers and Blues - 8/10… but what score would you give the Chancer’s review?
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look