Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Computers and Blues: The Final Streets Album

Considering this was one of the most anticipated albums that most people have never heard of, I'm a little sickened that I missed the release of Computers and Blues by a solid three weeks. And then it took another month to sit down and type about it. Also, you should start the video below before you start reading, it might help explain this ramble... or not.

The fifth and final Streets album, Computers and Blues, opens with loud, shrill tones and obnoxious auto-tuned vocals, causing me to tense up. The tracks have rough edges, random cuts and radical swings in tone and beat. Something was quite amiss. The album was unfinished; I could hardly listen to it. What had happened?

"I smoked one too many cigarettes, I heard one too many lies. And I’ve gambled on too many bets, I lost it all to this life."
- "Lock The Locks"
Even before the forth album was released, Mikey said he was getting "fucking sick" of it and that he was going to end The Streets with "one more banger", a fifth and final album. Boldly he titled the unwritten, unrecorded album Computers and Blues, stating it would be "dancing music to drink tea to". In the spring and summer 2009, he released a series of free tracks via Twitter and a release date of February 23, 2010 was set. I was on edge with anticipation.

Then Mikey left the grid.

Mike Skinner, Unknown Source

Was it all a joke? Nearly a year had past. No album. No Mikey. Were those Twitter tracks the last thing we would ever hear from him. Had I already been listening to Computers and Blues for months?

And then he resurfaced.
"To contradict the song that I wrote once, I ditched the phone. I switched it off one day around 365 days ago and I haven’t turned it on since."
- Mike Skinner, from The Street Blog
So, getting back to it, after that first scary listen I avoided it for a few days before determining that I had to settle in for the long haul. I'd already taken the ride this far, time to see just how far down the rabbit hole Mikey wanted to take me.

I devoting a week to listening to it on repeat, spending as much as four and five hours a day with it blaring in my ears. And it finally hit me. There never was a problem with the album. The only problem was with me.

I built a picture of it in my mind, determined that it would be the greatest record ever written. That Mike Skinner would ascend to some mythical height. That magical notes would emanate from throngs of grime rappers feverishly spitting into golden microphones.

And sometime during my 137th listen I realized that absolutely nothing could match the preconceived notion I had in my mind. At that moment the genius was looking me dead in the eyes. Mikey has always written the the soundtrack to his life; of course he did his final album his way. I was foolish to expect anything less than one final banger, an album full of dancing music to drink tea to.
"Just wanna ride out life in the key of C, I won't bash the black notes, I won't ask for answers."
- "Trying To Kill M.E."
Computers and Blues documents the good times, and the bad. It spits in the face of everyone who doesn't get it while laughing behind their backs with everyone that does. If you haven't heard The Streets before or if you are among the masses who don't, and likely won't, get it I'm sure you're laughing at me right now, as I undoubtedly sound like a geeked out fan boy.

Given my emotional investment in Computers and Blues, I can't say that's all together untrue. But no one wants their hero to die and nothing I could say will sell you on this album. It's not mine to sell. Despite my initial stupidity, I really can't picture a better ending to The Streets.
"I did a five-album deal and I don't think it would be right to be making Streets albums after that... I always envisaged them as a box-set and I've got a vision for each of the albums."
- Mike Skinner, from a BBC News Article
For me, it takes two songs to sum up this album. In "Trying To Kill M.E." Mikey talks about how he has evolved over the course of his ten year, five album tenure as The Streets. And in "Lock The Locks" he talks about putting down his pen, emptying out his desk and closing the doors.

And with that, The Streets are now closed. Thank you, Mike Skinner.

The final Streets blog entry. Unknown source.

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