Life of Grime

Posted October 8, 2009 in Music

This might be the beginning of the end for the Streets. Mike Skinner, the man behind the moniker, says his next album will be his last, and whether or not that’s true, the British rapper is sure acting like it. For longtime fans, this is a chance to see the oversized star perform with the attitude that’s he got nothing to lose. 


The on-stage banter alone could be worth the price of admission. 


This tour should technically be in support of last year’s Everything Is Borrowed, but Skinner seems so wrapped up in his next album—currently titled Computers and Blues and supposedly coming out in February—that he’ll likely test out several new tracks from his alleged swan song. And America is the perfect place to do it. 


The Streets are huge across the pond, but as Robbie Williams and the Sugarbabes can attest, that fame often doesn’t travel across the Atlantic. The garage- and grime-influenced rapper is essentially an underground star in the States, which gives him more room to experiment, as opposed to the summer he spent on the European festival circuit with truncated performance times and a host of must-play radio singles. From reading his MySpace blog, Skinner almost seems antsy to put Borrowed behind him and delve into the new. 


“The final Streets album will be dark and futuristic,” Skinner blogs. “This could not be further from [Everything Is Borrowed], but it’s what is on my mind at the moment. I feel inspired by the synthesizer exhibition we just visited in [Austria] after the gig we just did.”


It sounds like the main consistency between albums is that Skinner continues to be inconsistent. His first two albums were steeped in working-class narratives, but the rapper turned his attention to the chains of fame on 2006’s The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living and then surprisingly switched to positive vibes on Everything Is Borrowed


Most people assume Computers and Blues is as much a final album as Curtain Call was for Eminem, but at least the notion of closure has reinvigorated the rapper. He’s already said Computers will be based on rave music and influenced by Berlin culture making the Streets more club-worthy than ever. Shaun Ryder of the Happy Mondays would be rolling over in his grave right now if it weren’t that he’s somehow still alive. 


“Incorporating some kind of post-modernist art-house Bauhaus row with foul mouths,” writes Skinner about his new music. “But it’s not that at all. It now sounds ravey. It is a ravey album that bludgeons you over the head with its stick of 1988 Romford, Blackpool and Philadelphia rock. It is an insane album.”


He also called the album a “banger” and “dancing music” for drinking tea, whatever that means. 


Another sign that The Streets is on a creative roll can be seen in his Twitter posts. Alerting fans through tweets, he’s already posted 11 new tracks online and a music video for “He’s Behind You, He’s Got Swine Flu.” It might also be possible that the rapper plans to ditch The Streets and come back as Skinner 2.0 in the mold of this new album. At this point, there’s just no telling if The Streets is heading toward a dead-end or a super-highway.


Several years back, Skinner’s Mercury Prize-nominated Original Pirate Material had critics calling him the British Eminem, but he never materialized the American fanbase that most people expected. It’s possible that his current U.S. tour will be a simple recounting of his overseas hits and one last promotional outing for his last album, but that’s unlikely. If major changes are in store and Skinner really is going for broke, the upcoming Glass House show could be a classic. 


If nothing else, like Skinner himself, the show will be unpredictable. 


The Streets with Busdriver, Nosaj Thing & Mac Lethal at the Glass House, 200 W Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802;, Wed, Oct. 14. Doors open at 7PM. $21.


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