Monday, 14 March 2011




Mike Skinner is an idiosyncratic figure, on one side shouldering responsibility for the rise of “Corr Blimey” stage school performers such as Lilly Allen, and on the other side being a philosophical performer possessing the last unadulterated urban voice in pop.

Which of these is he? Difficult to tell, but one thing for sure is that Skinner himself is sick of trying to work it out Computers and Blues sees him signing off from his Streets alter ego to presumably go and ‘find himself’.
I was a big fan of the first two Streets records, genuinely unique in their approach they spoke volumes about the human existence that was seeped in contemporary black culture, without the need to emulate a lifestyle removed from any suggestion of Westside ghettos.
Since then my enthusiasm waned considerably as Skinner appeared to be merely treading water, whilst those around him expanded on the template, significantly exposing his shortcomings as a producer and lyricist.

It is therefore with some indifference I approached Computer and Blues, expecting a ‘more of the same’ type whimpering finale. One thing to remember about Mike Skinner however is to never underestimate him; and this maybe is his best record for years.

The smell of farewell hangs heavy over the whole set, Going through Hell is as clear a fuck you farewell as you can imagine. Featuring leery indie vocals from Robert Harvey of third rate indie rockers The Music- this is the sound of someone with nothing to prove, and is all the better for it.
Beats and samples throughout are denser than Skinner’s previous work, signalling an a marked improvement in his sometimes lacklustre production skills.
As a swansong Puzzled by People is as much even the biggest detractors could have hoped for, a short but sweet pop driven jam of sweet soul vocals and blustery piano rolls. Soldiers slinks along on top of a skunk stinking low slung electro groove, and We can Never Be Friends recalls the folk tinged sounds of days of yore in vintage fashion.

Computers and Blues is never going to be a vintage record, it’s unlikely to trouble many best of millennium charts when they creep around again. But as a hard won reminder of somebody who dared to take risks and listen to the sound within, it’s a fitting testament. I’m not betting against a festival reunion in five years when the funds run dry though….

Toby Hemming

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