Tuesday 6 December 2016

Music: Computers and Blues by The Streets **

(Atlantic)

Published 11/02/2011 | 05:00

Mike Skinner -- who spent the week "editing" the Guardian's music content -- says this is the last album he will make as The Streets. It's a wise move, because this fifth album is his weakest so far and one that suggests his mojo is getting very stale.

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It was all so different when he emerged nine years ago with Original Pirate Material -- an album that was vital, urgent and utterly original. The London-based, Birmingham-raised boy was deservedly proclaimed as a wordsmith in a league of his own who, briefly, made UK garage the world's most exciting genre. Then, the songs fizzed with vim and vigour and Skinner's spat-out rhymes captured urban Britain so lucidly it was as if the keenest-eyed poet was at work. These were urban hymns for a new generation.

Subsequent albums laboured in its wake. It didn't help that Skinner was preoccupied with that most irksome of themes -- the tribulations of being rich and famous -- and sales dropped off alarmingly.

Computers and Blues sees him tackle a world of virtual interaction where Twitter rules and Facebook's relationship status is paramount. It's au courant, that's for sure, but why does Skinner seem so disinterested?

His wordplay doesn't sparkle like it used to, and his adventures in dubstep seem hackneyed when judged alongside the likes of Burial and James Blake. Instead, his couplets are forced and the music listless.

The nadir is reached three songs in, with Roof of Your Car struggling to get out of first gear and a soulful female voice is given 'the Cher effect' and vocoderised horribly.

There are sporadic moments when Skinner seems emboldened with the task on hand -- Trust Me is the sort of cocksure tune he turned out in his sleep a decade ago, while closer Lock the Locks pits his wits alongside the much-trumpeted Clare Maguire.

Ultimately, though, this is a disappointing end to what was once a singular career.

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