By Wil Hayes, Fourth Year Politics and Spanish
UK Music titan Mike Skinner returns with his 6th full length project, an offering which is, on the surface, difficult to pin down.
It’s been described as a mixtape, but in a Noisey documentary on the process of it’s creation, Skinner asks his audience to view it as a duets instead album, jokingly likening himself to Frank Sinatra in this new musical foray.
As you might guess, None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive is defined by its features. Mike Skinner’s off-kilter vocals take the back seat on most tracks, making this project more reminiscent of the ‘creative CEO’ approach used by Kanye West in recent years. The result is a diverse patchwork of artists, curated from across the spectrum of UK music.
The album is both disparate and coherent in its focus. At a fairly compact 38 minutes and 41 seconds, it packs in 14 features across 12 tracks, each bringing something new to the table to shape the sound of each song in turn.
For example, the IDLES-featuring title track sees Mike Skinner and Bristol-based vocalist Joe Talbot go back and forth over a hard-hitting, punk-influenced backing track. I Know Something You Did, the fifth song on the listing and a standout on the tape, is built around a G Funk-esque instrumental that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 90s West Coast Hip-Hop record, a sure nod to featured artist Jesse James Solomon’s Hip-Hop credentials. The closing track Take Me As I Am, a collaboration with Chris Lorenzo, sees Mike Skinner riding a suitably Drum and Bass-y beat.
The uncertainty surrounding the project’s genre and nature makes for an unusual listening experience. If it was an album, the scattergun approach of differing styles, genres and influences would leave it feeling directionless, but the aforementioned ‘duet-album’ mixtape model gives it a looser, more adventurous feel, allowing Skinner to go into previously uncharted territory.
This can be seen in Mike Skinner’s autotuned crooning on I Know Something You Did and I Wish You Loved You As Much As You Loved Him, where he sings alongside Greentea Peng and Donae’o. There’s a distinct feeling of each track being the product of a different session, with each featured artist working individualistically, outside of any rigid framework.
I Know Something You Did is built around a G Funk-esque instrumental that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 90s West Coast Hip-Hop record
The songs are instead loosely tied together thematically, however. Common themes include the interplay between technology and dysfunctional relationships and, of course, the titular message of unification in the face of mortality, despite our differences (Where The F*&K Did April Go, a preceding single, is one of the better lockdown-inspired jams).
Unfortunately, within this abstract conceptual haze, None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive risks losing its central pillar – Mike Skinner himself – among the noise. At times, there’s a feeling that he himself is the featured artist on the track, and some lacklustre flows at certain points mean that some of his verses slightly overstay their welcome. It’s a double edged sword, with Skinner’s unique delivery sometimes failing to gel with the other performances on the album.
Still, it’s an enjoyable listen overall. Though into his 40s, None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive is an exciting preview into what the future of The Streets might hold.
Featured: Island Records
Have you listened to None Of Us Are Getting Out Of This Life Alive? What do you think?