Album Review: The Streets – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive

None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive

Maybe not by everyone, but it’s a fair shout that one of the most googled music-related search terms in the last few years has been, ‘Whatever happened to The Streets?’.

The simple answer is that Mike Skinner, the cockney-Brummie (or was it the other way round), retired his hugely successful venture in 2011 having produced two inarguably landmark British albums in Original Pirate Material and then A Grand Don’t Come For Free, the latter peaking with the sort of terrace hubris that Oasis had used to such great effect the decade before.

Part of the reason for calling it a day was that Skinner felt he was failing to connect with a younger audience, especially given that the UK’s grime scene prospered in …Pirate Material’s wake, although it’s wasn’t true to say as a direct result of the boundaries it crossed. In the self-imposed vacuum, he spent the time off with his young children and then gravitated to DJing, anonymously playing to unaware crowds up and down the country as part of the bass music scene.

Growing in confidence gradually, and buoyed by a new-found understanding of what the essence of modern club music was, eventually new output bubbled to the surface, including collaborations with the likes of Murkage and Grim Sickers, before the much recognised name emerged with a tougher, more contemporary skin a long, long way from the ubiquitous lad-friendly ballad Dry Your Eyes.

His return continues on this idiosyncratic path – None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive is billed not as a full blown release but a mixtape, or as he’s also confusingly called it, a duets compilation. A couple of the guests – Idles’ Joe Talbot (on the title-track) and Kevin Parker of Tame Impala – seemed to be calculated risks, with his track alongside the Australian, Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better, pulling them both into uncomfortable territory.

Elsewhere, the strength of having people doing what they’re good at works on repeat: back into the UK garage sounds of his debut, I Wish You Loved You As Much As You Loved Him with Donae’o and Green Tea Peng comes fresh and rewind ready, while the smeary, Playstation bass loops of Eskimo Ice finds a man sat in the producer’s chair facing one angle of his own legacy.

With experience comes a better depth of perception and the use of a freer license to keep experimenting that this format allows; closer Take Me As I Am swirls around a crackling amen-break, but Conspiracy Theory Freestyle instead flips to a mournful, Florence Welch-style earth ballad, while The Poison I Take Hoping You Will Suffer’s big synth vamps disguise a broken relationship dissolving into loneliness and uncertainty.

None of this marks reinvention, just change. Now in his forties, Skinner has spoken of The Streets being more about zeroing in on the people’s common denominators as opposed to being music conceived only to entertain a niche. None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive has a vibrancy and ear of a man who’s repaid his dues on 3am motorways and in low ceilinged rooms full of youthful strangers.

This is for them – and everyone else.


Andy Peterson

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