It has been nine years since Mike Skinner called time on The Streets, but he has not rested since then. You cannot keep him away. He started with work on The D.O.T, began solo DJ sets, and then shocked pundits in 2018, by announcing a greatest hits tour, ‘The Darker The Shadow The Brighter The Light’. With The Streets gathering pace again, it looked like an album was on the horizon. And here it is. Sort of. None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive, has been released as a mixtape, but still, it is twelve new tracks from The Streets.
The seminal albums, Original Pirate Material and A Grand Don’t Come For Free made any follow ups for Mike Skinner difficult to reach. Most listeners are still chasing that first high. While The Streets’ following three albums did provide some standout tracks and beautiful Skinner-isms, they never truly came close to the success of their predecessors. However, nine years later, after a hiatus, the sound of NOUAGOOTLA was always going to be somewhat different.
NOUAGOOTLA is certainly different and has divided fans and critics alike. The mixtape shows off Skinner’s wide-ranging influence to not only the UK garage scene, but on the whole of our nation’s (and beyond) music scene. Ms Banks, Donae’O, Greentea Peng and Jimothy Lacoste feature alongside the likes of Hak Baker and Tame Impala to name only a few.
Joining artists from different genres and fusing them with the sounds of The Streets makes the album feel like a lab experiment. ‘Call My Phone Thinking I’m Doing Nothing Better’ is probably the best example of this. Featuring Tame Impala, the track blends The Streets UK Garage beat with archetypal Tame Impala vocals. It is a bit of a mismatch. Putting artists into The Streets world and seeing what sound results does not always work, but that is not to say the mixtape is without merit.
‘Falling Down’ with Hak Baker is a standout. It has the traditional Skinner-esque garage stylings with added piano rifts, reminiscent of ‘Never Went To Church’. Heartfelt, but never cheesy, ‘falling down is an accident, but staying down is a choice,’ Skinner insists in the chorus. Equally on, ‘Same Direction,’ Skinner provides nuggets of golden lyrics. “You lean into the car window, tell me the stars are getting off. The sky moves back like tinted windows, revealing tomorrow like a deathly cough,” raps Skinner over a trap beat.
Skinner’s ability to philosophise is not lost on the mixtape. His ability to place life lessons and world views within the context of the everyday and mundane is as impressive as ever. It often seems that he is competing with his features though, and not always coming out victorious. In ‘You Can’t Afford Me’, Ms Banks supplies arguably the stronger verse. Rapping over an old school grime beat, “I’m from M&S, babes. You got a better chance at Lidl,” Ms Banks hits the tone of The Streets perfectly, cheeky, tongue in cheek, and effortlessly cool.
As always, Skinner weaves a narrative, like the entire concept of ‘A Grand Don’t Come For Free’ to individual tracks such as ‘On The Edge of The Cliff.’ ‘Conspiracy Theory Freestyle’ best shows this here. It looks at the ins and outs of modern life, through a Mike Skinner lense. Backed by a heavy drumbeat, soft piano, and a dramatic chorus, he touches on all aspects of the world today. The track’s layered harmonies and ever-increasing instrumentation make it euphoric.“The world is round to stop you seeing too far down the road. Unless, of course, the world is credibly flat. But if you want you a conspiracy, there’s an edible for that.” This final line is so typically brilliant of Skinner.
None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive, could be the first step on the road for a new sound from The Streets. After all it was released a mixtape for a reason, it is an experiment, carving out a narrative, but delivering a handful of impressive gems as it does so.