Mike Skinner’s uneasy relationship with his Streets creation has been evident since 2006’s The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, a paranoid pitfalls-of-celebrity album that predicted the New Age retreat of 2008’s Everything Is Borrowed. Much of that can probably be attributed to Skinner’s milieu—pub-crawls, kebab-shop dust-ups, and morning-after café conversations—and the increasing distance from such twentysomething matters. Or maybe it’s just the impossibility of topping two boundary-pushing early records, and the exhaustion of trying. Whatever the reason, it’s no surprise that Computers And Blues is the final Streets album, as it’s long been clear that Skinner’s heart is no longer in it.
Fortunately, Computers is more farewell party than funeral, and Skinner keeps things appropriately lively. Spit-and-glue grooves culled from garage beats, clipped string swells, and brash guitar hits drive the claustrophobic funk of songs like “Outside Inside” and the sooty disco of “Those That Don’t Know,” and when Skinner constructs the crossword metaphors of “Puzzled By People” or looses the A-to-Zs of partying on “ABC,” he’s as wryly dexterous as ever. And although it’s clear he has more grown-up concerns—“Blip On A Screen” finds Skinner awestruck by his son’s ultrasound, while he laments his chronic fatigue on “Trying To Kill M.E.”—he’s still up for some pint-pounding (“Without Thinking”) or stoner philosophizing (“Roof Of Your Car”).
Still, outside of scattered J.G. Ballard shout-outs or quotables like “You can’t Google the solutions to people’s problems,” too much of Skinner’s lyrical musings feel like rote rehash, while the Auto-Tuned neo-soul hooks and the dated-on-arrival Facebook-page ode “OMG” seem like awkward nods to trends from a guy who once sought to push things forward. By the final track, “Lock The Locks,” Skinner is literally “packing up my desk,” having reduced The Streets to office drudgery—and while there are moments here to remind that he won’t be easily replaced, there are just as many that confirm it’s time to go.