Mike Skinner’s decision to resurrect The Streets as a touring entity felt somewhat inevitable. With a new generation of kids discovering UKG and his half-spoken lyrical delivery being ripped off merrily by a fresh wave of groups, it made perfect sense for the original pirate geezer to show them how it’s done.
Fresh material was the next logical step, with Mike Skinner sharing a flurry of stand alone tracks, easing his way back into the creative space The Streets had always occupied in his mind. New mixtape ‘None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive’ is the fullest expression of this tendency, and while it fleetingly hits the heights of old, it’s often as musically burnt out as the lyrical subject matter.
His first in-depth Streets studio endeavour since 2011’s internet-only ‘Cyberspace & Reds’, the new mixtape is characterised by a deliberate lack of nuance, and almost lo-fi approach to beats. Take lead single ‘Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better’ and its cut ‘n’ shunt fusion with Tame Impala – on their own, Mike Skinner and Kevin Parker are fine vocalists, but their approaches never mesh. It’s an approach that is testament to the frayed, information-overload schematics that dominate the record, but it feels oddly unfinished, lacking a certain penetration.
Indeed, the stubborn minimalism Mike Skinner uses at points can certainly grate. Title song ‘None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive’ utilises this main phrase as a mantra, but it doesn’t go anywhere with it – it’s a decent hashtag, for sure, but as a song it doesn’t go anywhere further than that.
Replete with TS Eliot and Dylan Thomas quotes, the new mixtape is The Streets at their most self-conscious, the continual contrast between jaded everyday and poetic lyricism at its most stark and self-apparent. “I don’t like my country,” he screams on the title track, while Brexit allusions run through the material like a stick of rock – it’s not subtle, but it is effective, with Mike Skinner’s palpable confusion and despair reflecting an increasingly dystopian Britannia.
Embracing a new generation of talent, ‘None Of Us Are Getting Out This Life Alive’ is peppered with younger talent. It’s a diverse array of features, some of which work, and some of which – Jimothy Lacoste – don’t seem to mesh.
Ironically for the man who once said “geezers need excitement” the best moments on the record are often dominated by female talent – think Greentea Peng’s show-stopping turn on ‘I Wish You Loved You As Much As You Love Him’ or Ms Banks starring on the UK funky cut ‘You Can’t Afford Me’.
Dogged by through-away moments, Mike Skinner mixes this with elements of startling intensity. It’s a record that seems to continually focus on the lack of gratification – endless scrolling, unfulfilling relationships, and information overload. ‘The Poison I Take Hoping You Will Suffer’ approaches the intensity of early Streets mental health analysis ‘Stay Positive’ while ‘Phone Is Always In My Hand’ is a blunt depiction of the impact an always-on mentality can have.
A project with a storied catalogue, The Streets’ new mixtape often works best at its most unexpected moments. The grimey sub-low of ‘Eskimo Ice’ is a system thriller, for example, while ‘I Know Something You Did’ matches a hip-hop swagger to a superb guest spot from Jesse James Solomon, perhaps the best on the album.
Taken in its entirety, ‘None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive’ is a mercurial yet frustrating project. The full length return of The Streets, it offers Mike Skinner at his most vivid and most forgettable, offering moments of illumination before retreating into darkness.
Words: Robin Murray
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