Socialist Worker

The Streets moved on, but lost something on the way

Mike Skinner’s return showcases brilliant musical talent, but None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive is not as sharp lyrically, says Richard Donnelly

Issue No. 2714

Mike Skinner of The Streets

Mike Skinner of The Streets (Pic: Simoncromptonreid)


None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive is the first record to be produced by Mike Skinner’s The Streets for nine years.

The lasting popularity of The Streets’ first two albums means that Skinner’s return is exciting. But his new offering is not an attempt to relive past glories.

Instead The Streets heads in a fresh direction, working alongside a wealth of less-established artists from a range of musical scenes.

The result is a diverse and ­experimental record that is much more dreamlike than Skinner’s ­earlier, earthier work.

Some of the best music on this record was produced in collaboration with artists influenced by ­psychedelia. Collaborators include psych-rock act Tame Impala and the incredible London soul singer Greentea Peng.

There are brilliant contributions from hip-hop and grime stars such as Ms Banks and Donae’o. Skinner also brings in less-prominent rappers such as Kasien and Jesse James Solomon.

The album offers moments of ­experimental brilliance. But the ­cutting lyrics of earlier records are sadly missing.

The Streets’ debut Original Pirate Material and the subsequent A Grand Don’t Come For Free mined sharp observations from the mundanity of every life.

The way that The Streets fitted that moment in British society ­propelled Skinner to fame.

It reflected the lives of young working class people at the time with wit and dazzling wordplay.

The Streets’ description of a hedonistic youth culture of pubs, clubs and drugs always pointed over its shoulder to the underlying ­realities of Britain under Tony Blair. ­“Deep-seated urban decay”, as the song “Has It Come To This” had it.

Regrettably it also sometimes played to the “lad culture” of the early 00s.

The way that The Streets fitted that moment in British society ­propelled Skinner to fame.

This time many of the lyrics are vacuous, even if they occasionally offer a pretence of depth.

“If god had have dropped acid would god see people?” sounds ­profound at first but ultimately means nothing.

Accompanying music videos ­reference Black Lives Matter and coronavirus extensively. But there’s not much musical effort to express the mood of these strange times.

For those of us to who Skinner’s lyrics once spoke, this will be a disappointment.

None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive is out now

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Reviews
Fri 17 Jul 2020, 16:21 BST
Issue No. 2714
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