Arguably one of the defining voices of his generation, urban raconteur Mike Skinner's early-noughties tales of clubbing, comedowns, and "chav culture" initially saw him hailed as a modern-day Keats. But following the self-indulgent meltdown of 2006's The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living and the "philosophy for beginners" approach of 2008's Everything Is Borrowed, the Brummie maverick's uniquely relatable poetic license appeared to have expired. However, his fifth studio LP, Computers and Blues, his last to be recorded under the guise of the Streets, sees him return to his more popular "everyman" persona again on a concept album that perhaps captures the Zeitgeist just as much as his first two celebrated efforts. Based on the theme of technology and the power it holds over modern life, its 14 tracks showcase Skinner's trademark hip-hop witticisms on the likes of the skittering dubstep of "OMG," where Skinner reveals his anxiety over his object of affection's Facebook relationship status, the filtered synth-led "Soldiers," which tackles the issue of video game violence overlapping into reality, and the baroque pop of "Roof of Your Car," an amusing story about a group of stoners' battle with a sat-nav, while "Blip on a Screen," a heartfelt ode to an ultrasound scan of his unborn daughter, like his signature tune, is unlikely to leave a dry eye in the house. Acknowledging the "leaving party" vibes, Skinner also ropes in a number of high-profile guest collaborators for the first time in his ten-year career, including the Music's Robert Harvey, who belts out his Robert Plant-esque vocals on the leery drunken singalong of lead single "Going Through Hell," his hometown's answer to Kate Bush, Clare Maguire, on the folky final track "Lock the Locks," and Laura Vane & the Vipertones' eponymous lead vocalist on the percussion-driven account of his struggle with chronic fatigue syndrome, "Trying to Kill M.E." Elsewhere, Skinner attempts to win back the fans he's recently lost with nods to his old-skool clubby beginnings on the two-step garage of "Those That Don't Know," the funky Gallic disco of "Trust Me," and the Italo-house-inspired "Without Thinking," while the Berlin influences hinted at by the stark minimal building on its cover art rear their head on the industrial rhythms of "Puzzled by People" and the sparse futuristic robotics of "Outside Inside." As resignation letters go, Computers and Blues will be tough to beat.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien