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Listening Party: The Streets - Computers and Blues

Words by special guest Franko Fraize

If you haven’t listened to The Streets’ new and final album yet, then go and listen. If you have listened and only made a quick passing judgement, please go back and listen nine more times. I say this because in this day and age it’s too easy to listen briefly to a record, form an opinion, then quickly move on. In this world where everything we desire is just a click away, there is little time anymore to let things grow. When I first listened to Computers And Blues I thought it was ok but after listening ten times I truly appreciate it for what it is: a very decent record.

Computers and Blues is the Barnet-born/Birmingham-raised Mike Skinner’s fifth and final album of his five album record deal with Warner. Mike has stated in interviews that he wanted to end The Streets on this album as it felt right to fulfil five albums on the same label, thus creating his discography on one label over roughly a decade.

The interesting thing about Computers and Blues is that last year a small part of it was released for free via Twitter, albeit in demo format. The tracks ‘Trust Me’, ‘Blip On a Screen’, ‘Outside Inside’, and ‘Roof of Your Car’ were released in late 2009. Mike Skinner also released the album online a week prior to the official release date via a Soundcloud stream, a stream on the Guardian website, and via Spotify to premium members – a very interesting thing to do in my opinion. At face value, a move like this could deter people from buying the album, simply taking it for free instead. However, the album went in at number eight in the UK charts, which either tells us free music doesn’t directly affect record sales as much as we think, or that if you get a name as big as The Streets you will always sell records.

Most people will agree that the first two records were the best. When Mike got to the point of writing Everything Is Borrowed, many felt he went wrong by leaving the straight-up narrative of a twenty-something English male and going on to tell his own story with a more personal approach. For most fans this didn’t hit home like the albums before and he was criticised for doing so.

With Computers and Blues, Mike has managed to amalgamate the two styles. It’s almost as if he listened to every one of his past releases then made this as a reflection of them all. He talks of things a lot of people encounter and relate to, such as going out raving, going to the football, and relationships, but also adds a very personal message to a lot of the tracks – a message that is perhaps missed on first glance. Tracks such as ‘Trying To Kill M.E.’ explain how his dedication and work rate led to him becoming exhausted and suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. The final track, ‘Lock the Locks’, is a very fitting end to a decent career. It talks of him leaving, using the image of an office worker leaving the office and his work life behind as a metaphor for him leaving The Streets behind and parting the label. I believe that Computers And Blues is everything Mike Skinner aimed to achieve. It is a nicely rounded album that comfortably puts to bed the brilliant outfit that was The Streets.

Other Streets related information:

In January 2011, Mike released Cyberspace and Reds, a free mixtape containing recordings made since Computers and Blues was recorded, which shows him working with the current cream of the UK rap scene. It’s available here: http://soundcloud.com/the-streets/sets/cyberspace-and-reds-deluxe-edition

He also produced an interactive film on Youtube to help advertise the new album: http://the-streets.co.uk/2011/02/computers-and-blues-interactive-film/

‘Going Through Hell’ video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_ulRwXIzbo

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