Mike Skinner is back with his fifth and final hurrah under his moniker The Streets, with Computers And Blues, and the premise of being a more ”˜Ravey”™ reflective and evaluation of life at “Street Level”.
From the offset, Skinner positively demonstrates his intent to stretch the boundaries of musicality with the strangely syncopated and electrified introduction to opening number Outside Inside, combined with the ever-familiar, casually poetic style flowing tamely alongside the sporadic melody. Going Through Hell features a catchy ear-worm chorus and an almost obnoxious and leary driven thumping backing track.
Sadly though, the better tunes look to have already passed and the rest of the album seems to lose its way, with the next tracks failing to deliver or cover any significant new ground in its material content, sometimes seeming to have to resort to repetition to get the across the themes in the subject matter. Skinner has opted to stretch his poetic abilities with the use of more abstract metaphors which, often overused, actually hinder empathy with the lyrical content.
There are times when one feels it is time to question some of the depth of musical lyrics these days. It seems there are an increasing number of artists referring to social media as a topic of comment; OMG is one example where you might not question whether this should be the last album.
All too often these days, artists are feeling it necessary to reference and comment on social media in their music. Skinner also uses Facebook as subject matter, and it sadly does feel like he may be scraping the dregs for content. Yet you could argue that if an artist is aiming to discuss all things current, then perhaps it is correct to encompass all avenues of modern life. To an extent, this track redeems itself towards the end in an uplifting twist, reminiscent to the end of their former A Grand Don”™t Come For Free album.
Soldiers is one of the stand-out tracks on the album with the chorus featuring the unmistakable prominence of Rob Harvey of The Music fame. His vocal lines are very similar to the poignant Inconceivable Odds from Strength in Numbers, the last LP from The Music. The positive, floaty chords flow above the bouncy lyrics.
The dramatic opening to Trust Me does catch the ear briefly, yet quite early on in the first verse, once again all too familiar subjects covered. And the seemingly unconnected dramatic introduction used to end the track. The final number Lock The Doors seems quite the right way to end, with a downtempo feel, ending perhaps a little too abruptly.
On the whole, Computers And Blues seems to lack some of the fresh thinking from some The Streets”™ earlier work, and a great deal of the poetic materials explore grounds covered more than once before. The musicality on show in this release seems perhaps a little too experimental and unfinished. Stark differences between verse and chorus are apparent, incoherently strung together with some seemingly laboured bridges. In places, the vocal work struggles to match the backing music, with some passages feeling hurried and under-rehearsed. The collaborative works dotted throughout the release feel like an attempt to maintain an otherwise dwindling impetus in the album.
Skinner claimed that he was “sick of the name and associations” with “The Streets”, before starting work on this album. Taking this on board, consider Computers And Blues a parting gift. Sadly, some fans may feel left with a regretfully bitter aftertaste.