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Music Review: The Streets – Computers and Blues

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Mike Skinner’s final record as The Streets is Computers and Blues. It’s very nearly a resignation letter, soaked in heavy irony and philosophy.

The British rapper and musician may be locking the doors and kicking out the lights, but he’s left behind one hell of a legacy. I experienced the second-to-last chapter with 2008’s Everything is Borrowed. Drinking in the After School Special vibe in all its cheesy glory wasn’t exactly the greatest of experiences, but Computers and Blues reveals that the misstep might have been fucking necessary in the grander scheme of things.

Computers and Blues is the inevitable conclusion of what began back in 2002 with the shockingly good Original Pirate Material.

Skinner’s done concept albums like few others, creating a story on the fucking genius A Grand Don’t Come for Free and exploring humanity and technology with his latest and last.

Computers and Blues lives in the space of bleeps and flickers, engaging in the glitches and peeling back the circuitry to find the skin ‘neath the flashing sparks. We can’t solve all of our problems with machines; we can’t “Google the solution to people’s feelings.”

“Outside Inside” begins things with an electronic splash. Skinner lets the fog take form after wallowing in the glitches and shit gets funky in a hurry. His lyrics dance over the beat and his flow is impeccable as he rattles through.

“Going Through Hell” is my favourite track. It’s a full brew, bubbling over with pounding guitar like a British “99 Problems.” The Music’s Robert Harvey sings the hook, stretching the notes perfectly and wailing away. “If you’re going through hell, keep going,” he blares over the driving song.

“Roof of Your Car” follows coated in tinges of neo-soul, while “Puzzled by People” returns Skinner to the mood of Original Pirate Material and packs in some of the album’s best lines. “I don’t trouble trouble and trouble don’t trouble me,” he says effortlessly.

“Soldiers” works in more of that neo-soul shit, complete with more vocals from Harvey and a wandering, distant saxophone.

Computers and Blues concludes the vision of The Streets in fantastic fashion. A record of humanity and force, Skinner’s last dance darts through its paces with precise, clever production and the rapper’s usual dazzling lyrical sense. He balances the words beautifully, tucking in extra syllables where other emcees would only dream of and speaking in terms that refuse to patronize the listener.

Skinner’s The Streets was a rare breed on today’s musical landscape and I’m sad to see the journey end. At the same time, it was a fucking fantastic ride.

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