Mike Skinner’s final album might just be his very best.
Lou Thomas 2011-01-28
After five albums recording as The Streets, Brummie exile Mike Skinner has spat his last rap and built his last beat. He should be proud: Dylan Mills aside there hasn’t been another consistently exciting and commercially successful urban UK voice to touch him over the last decade.
It’s fitting that Skinner chooses now to skank off into the sunset to make films and TV, or just bang out Tweets and blog posts, as he may just have produced his best album. Original Pirate Material had the energy, A Grand Don’t Come for Free took him to the big time, and Everything Is Borrowed had the maturity and at times epic sense of perspective. This album sums it all up with a wink, a sigh, and some crucial dance moves.
As is customary for a Streets album, the start absolutely smacks it. Outside Inside is a deranged shuffle replete with analogue bleeps, a lead riff that’s half Vampire Weekend, half the theme music from Rainbow, and packs some terrific submerged bass. It’s busy, but has the deep complexity of a classic Roots Manuva tune.
First single Going Through Hell is just as great, all National Grid-voltage guitar, chanting and The Music’s Robert Harvey doing a baggy Robert Plant vocal. It manages to evoke both Skinner’s own Fit But You Know It and the Beastie Boys’ Fight for Your Right.
The best moments here are two tremendous tunes that would rock any party worth its noise abatement order. Trust Me is a brief but brilliant French house-inspired whirl of disco piano beauty that’d get even the stiffest square shouting for a rewind. Those That Don’t Know, meanwhile, is a stylish piece of MJ Cole-flavoured melodic UK garage. It even includes hilarious and knowing lines like "Fall asleep past your stop / Creep in, eleven o’clock in the morning / No dawn is ever boring".
Emotive protest anthem Soldiers and the Facebook romance of OMG will please Skinner’s fans, but final track Lock the Locks will yank at the heartstrings the most. A marvellous slab of industrial soul, it includes a smoky Clare Maguire vocal and the timeless couplet, "Read the funny card signed by all / That was purchased by the person I will always recall". A parting gift to grip, sadden and elate. You’ll be missed, Mike.