Ten years, 5 albums and 1 child later; it seems Mike Skinner has mellowed. Though we always knew him as the ‘mockney’ accent, Reebok Classic sporting ‘geezer’ who turned a UK grime/garage scene on its head, the man behind The Streets is not what you would possibly expect.
From the outset, it seems that Skinner had a plan in mind, and has unabatedly stuck to it, albeit with the inevitable twist and turn along the way, as with most things. As he said recently in an interview with The Guardian, “I’ve been going for 10 years now, I’ve run out of avenues”. This said in response to being asked why the fifth album heralds the end of The Streets as we know it. So here I take a retrospective look at the rise of The Streets, and consider Skinner’s seemingly determined stance that, with the up-coming release and ensuing tour of Computers and Blues, this is the end.
Depending on which way you look it at, this album is far more commercially open to the wider public
Upon the release of Original Pirate Material (2000) on Locked-On, Skinner left Birmingham for London to pursue greater success. This debut aimed to take UK grime in a new direction, with ska and garage influencing the album, predominantly featured in tracks like Let’s Push Things Forward and Has it Come to This? respectively. Following the success of The Streets’ debut, A grand don’t come for free soon followed in 2004. Depending on which way you look it at, this album is far more commercially open to the wider public, with tracks such as Fit But You Know It and Dry Your Eyes achieving huge mainstream success.
Rather than be slated for a perceived slip into mainstream complacency, the album was rapturously received by fans and critics alike. Skinner’s contemplative lyrics, according to most critics, put him in a class of his own, above his contemporaries, with PopMatters declaring “nobody else is making music like this”. There’s no doubting, as far as record sales are concerned, this was the peak of Skinner’s lyrical career thus far, selling 3 million copies worldwide.
He has remained seemingly unaffected by waning commercial popularity
So, why is it that Skinner, according to interviews, seems fairly morose about the life and impending death of The Streets? Well, as stated at the start of this article, Mike Skinner had a plan. He wanted to fulfil the five album deal he signed, making every record distinct in some way from the other, he has literally hand-created every track, from lyrics to production, to every tweak and glitch heard on any track. He has remained seemingly unaffected by waning commercial popularity, as well as huge international success from which he didn’t become impossibly embroiled, and now he is finally done with it. With a young child, he wiles away his time either in France “eating brie before breakfast” or living out a “Peter Pan” existence during the day, playing Call of Duty and changing nappies.
Not what we might have expected from a man who introduced himself to the nation with “I reckon you’re about an 8 or a 9, maybe even 9 and a half in 4 beers time”, but undeniably intriguing, yet somewhat removed in person, compared to the frank brutality of his words.
Despite the refreshing simplicity of Skinner’s lyrics, the man himself remains an enigma, and thus, Computers and Blues, and the ensuing death of The Streets is awaited with intrigue by all.