The Streets: None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive review – Unoriginal material

Fri, Jul 10, 2020, 06:30

   
 

Album:
None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive

Artist:
The Streets

Label:
Island

Genre:
Electronic

Mike Skinner: proper legend, British artist who helped define an era. As The Streets, Skinner made UK garage and electronic music that depicted working-class life beneath the sheen of New Labour’s slick media management and reality TV pop’s mawkish dream-weaving. His first two albums are part of early-to-mid-2000s English folklore and affectionately remembered by pirate radio station heads, Britpop veterans and young people who holidayed in Ayia Napa.

It’s been nine years since Skinner’s last album as The Streets and about a decade and a half since he made music that felt essential or gained any kind of pop-cultural traction. So it’s reasonable to ask if he can still illustrate life with the same sharpness and authenticity. The answer, sadly, is a big nope.

If you don’t peer too closely at None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive, Skinner almost sounds like that spoken-word star you knew and loved. But while he once portrayed the emotional immaturity of young men with an identifiable realness and a wicked turn of phrase, here he sounds bereft of inspiration. Even the name of the album, repeated ad nauseam over the sludgy guitar riffs of the title track, sounds like stoned nonsense compared with the wicked lyrics Skinner once penned.

He still feels like the same laptop beatmaker but the magic touch has deserted him

A lot of songs appear to focus on would-be girlfriends and bitter lovers – weirdly, he seems particularly obsessed with the role phones play in unhealthy relationships. But Skinner can’t illustrate bruised feelings as interestingly as he did on Dry Your Eyes. When he’s not dropping daft lines like “I wish you loved you as much as you love him/So kiss his picture and chuck it in the bin”, the now-40-year-old sounds emotionally stunted, seeing women primarily as mild irritants.

Also disappointing is how much Skinner has regressed musically. Take the grating rattle’n’clank arrangement of Take Me as I Am, or the unsuitably booming beat that underpins the house music-influenced I Wish You Loved You as Much as You Love Him. He still feels like the same laptop beatmaker but the magic touch has deserted him. 

Almost every track features a guest, none of whom find it easy to bring the material to life: the Tame Impala team-up Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better, for example, suffers from such a lack of chemistry, it feels more like a 2000s DJ mash-up than a true collaboration.

Really, it’s hard to make a case that any song here is better than the worst moments of Original Pirate Material or A Grand Don’t Come for Free, which remain untouched classics. It’s not hyperbole to say that Mike Skinner once qualified as a voice of a generation. Now, his peak has never felt further in the past.