This year marks the tenth year anniversary of the release of ‘Original Pirate Material’, the seminal debut LP from The Streets. Considering the span of the run and focusing on reasons entirely musical, Skinner deciding to “Lock the Locks” on The Streets after a decade didn’t seem to come as much of a shock. The sound of OPM was centred on UK Hip-Hop and Garage, present days sees one taking on a completely different form and the other more or less extinct in general.
The charm of The Streets was never surrounded by class and background, rather the beauty in the finer details of everyday life and Mike Skinner’s ability to display this with bags of lyrical ability, integrity and zero pretension. Nonetheless, Skinner has undergone changes, self-confessed personal ones as well as those expected of any man growing older, seemingly wiser and vastly richer over a period of time. This is evident no less through his own works with the polarising critical opinions of the final two albums, the final release Computers and Blues, in particular.
A year after laying The Streets to rest, he formed The D.O.T (they still haven’t explained what it means yet,) with Robert Harvey formerly of The Music, and a year on from then, this week, the band now bring to us their debut album ‘And That’ via Skinner’s recently revived imprint The Beats. Harvey featured heavily on Computers and Blues, with The D.O.T’s music similarly featuring Harvey on lead vocals with Skinner fading into the back, relishing the freedom to explore his ability as a producer. The opener ‘And A Hero’ struggles to shake off the impression of Hot Chip remixing The Weekend but ‘You Never Asked’ (below), the album’s lead single, works to stave off these fears, with the album also featuring Clare Maguire (also featured on Computers and Blues) and a verse from Detroit rapper Danny Brown, himself a vocal supporter of Mike Skinner’s earlier works.
Here and a few other times on the album you find yourself half expecting Mike Skinner to drop a verse somewhere, always adept at finding a pocket of the track to marry his irreverent rhymes but instead he refrains right the way through
On occasion, both deliver strongly in their departments, the storming, ‘Colours That Don’t Exist’ followed by the reflective ‘Where did I Go’ serve as a showcase for the surprising production and song-writing versatility on offer here as well as the underrated vocal ability of Robert Harvey. Ironically, the main gripe is evident on the strongest track, ‘Right Side of Madness’, the most assured and rounded piece of music on the album, strong enough to win over the unsure. Here and a few other times on the album you find yourself half expecting Mike Skinner to drop a verse somewhere, always adept at finding a pocket of the track to marry his irreverent rhymes but instead he refrains right the way through here. A theory could be, he’s going some way to proving a point of stepping away from the mic, another perhaps his creative juices are simply flowing in a completely different direction, with a range of other interests pervading his mind the past year.
The direction The D.O.T take from here should be interesting given the range of influences on both the members. The combination of indie/electronica/disco presented here manages to work despite the clear need to iron out of the kinks, yet if Skinner unlocks the part of his genius he seems comfortable to let lie hidden, we could have so much more.
Follow Tobi Oke on twitter at @TeflonTobz
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