I’m a bit slow on the uptake here, but here’s the new tune from James Blake. Looking forward to the new album, Overgrown, which comes out on April 8. Guests include Brian Eno and the Wu-Tang’s RZA. What a pair. Apparently, RZA’s track includes him waxing lyrical about fish and chips and stout. An early April Fool’s Day joke perhaps? We’ll find out.
‘I Am Sold’
‘Life Around Here’
‘Take A Fall For Me’ feat. RZA
‘Digital Lion’ feat. Brian Eno
‘To The last’
‘Our Love Comes Back’
Remarkably, in a couple of months, this will be 20 years old. Perhaps my favourite remix of all time and one of New Order’s greatest moments. Certainly a contender for best comeback single of all time.
Also, a reminder just how great Andrew Weatherall was back in the day. Shame he didn’t really go on to greater things after Screamadelica and this.
So it’s the end of the road for the self-proclaimed “Picasso of geezer garage.”
Mike Skinner claims he’s knocking The Streets on the head with this fifth studio album after wringing his creative flannel dry. His next move is to spend more time on his Beat Stevie web TV channel and blog. Meanwhile, his musical destiny remains up in the air.
It’s been an eventful eight years for Skinner. His 2002 debut Original Pirate Material announced a very singular talent who provided an almighty kick up the arse to the UK hip-hop and garage scene. It still remains his most diverse, tune-laden effort although OPM’s successor, the concept album A Grand Don’t Come For Free was the one that really connected with a huge mainstream audience.
For a while, Skinner was absolutely everywhere. Broadsheet scribes gushed that he was the spokesman for a new generation of disenfranchised youth in Broken Britain. And you had to agree they had a point. Skinner’s defiantly UK-centric approach meant that for the first time ever, MCs began to talk about their own culture rather than toss off weak versions of hip-hop from across the Atlantic.
And then the wheels rather fell off. The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living was self-conscious navel-gazing and almost tune-free. Two steps forward and three steps back.
Suitably chastened, Skinner pulled his socks up for Everything Is Borrowed, a far more consistent affair which showed more than a few glimpses of his gift for killer hooks and laugh-out-loud lyrics.
Apart from the tinnitus–inducing first half-minute of opener Outside Inside, Computers and Blues sees Skinner sign off in style.
Outside Inside skips along with a wriggling riff where Vampire Weekend meet the theme tune from Cagney and Lacey. The Music’s bellower Rob Harvey collaborates on Going Through Hell, an instantly memorable radio-friendly monster. “At the end of the tunnel there is always light. It just might be a train,” adds Skinner waggishly. But ultimately, this is a track filled with optimism, a metaphorically blokey arm around the shoulder “If you’re going through hell , keep going!” rings the chorus.
Roof of Your Car marries a Top Shop r’n’b tune to a charmingly rudimentary plinky plonky Casio keyboard backing, as a lemon bifta-enhanced wide-eyed Skinner ponders the wonders of the sky at night.
No Streets album would be complete without the odd tip of the hat to great nights out on the lash. The spiralling Without Thinking sees Mike celebrate his social side – he’s ageing gracefully but still can’t resist the odd bender (and we don’t mean Antony Hegarty). Forget about some of the pre-release quotes from Skinner that Computers and Blues is his ravey album, it’s a little more restrained than that.
A quirky crossword metaphor runs through the gentle shrug of Puzzled By People which finds our hero chewing on a biro and musing: “I’m puzzled by people, loving isn’t easy; you can’t Google the solutions to people’s feelings.”
Those That Don’t Know is a cheeky little disco rumpshaker complete with Chic guitars and wailing soul divas on the BVs. The 70-second burst of dubstep on ABC that follows is a bit underdeveloped and doesn’t quite fit the rest of the album. Think of it as one of those old school hip-hop skits and it makes more sense as a palette cleanser.
There’s plenty of light and shade, too. The touching Blip On A Screen finds Skinner singing to an ultrasound image of his unborn child in the womb. It’s time to grow up and his adult responsibilities weigh heavy on his shoulders.
Adult concerns also run through the ode to insomnia Trying To Kill M.E. and We Can Never Be Friends deals with yet more relationship angst. A sequel to Dry Your Eyes perhaps? OMG is similarly crestfallen and another affecting break-up ballad.
The self-referencing Trust Me kicks in with a horn section riff that’s a dead ringer for the intro to A Grand Don’t Come For Free’s opener It Was Supposed To Be So Easy. It’s a funky little thing and pairs up well with the aforementioned Those Who Don’t Know.
And he leaves us in no doubt that it’s the end of the line for The Streets with Lock The Locks, a swaying and jazzy closer. Incidentally, his female collaborator here is Claire Maguire; a much-touted new UK talent who you’ll be hearing a lot more of in 2011.
“I handed in my notice…I’m packing up my desk, put it into boxes, knock out the lights, lock the locks and leave.”
Skinner’s handing on the baton and shutting up shop. It’s time to walk away now, it’s ohhhh-verrr…
Released: February 7
Scores on the Doors: 8/10