Album: The Mitchell Brothers

A Breath of Fresh Attire, THE BEATS
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The Independent Culture

As producer, Skinner also fits up the brothers' narratives with Streets-style settings which eschew the abrupt, jerky rhythms of grime in favour of the kind of hauntingly melodious backing tracks that lodged his own songs so firmly in the collective imagination. The slow, plodding synth trudge of "G.O.R.G.I.E." evokes the despair and humiliation of being hassled at the Jobcentre in order to get your measly £44 a week - just enough, they point out, for a quarter-ounce of skunk each week, or a pair of Nikes every fortnight - while the eerie violin in "Don't Try This At Home" offers a foreboding signal of the catastrophes looming for the song's drunken boy-racers and wannabe car-jackers.

Unlike a lot of Brit-hop, The Mitchell Brothers' tales are inclusive of tone, speaking to the everyday experience of UK youths, not just a self-regarding hip-hop élite. "When The Whistle Blows" is terrace banter directed at the referee; "Excuse My Brother" alternates one sibling's drunken ranting with the other's attempts to smooth over the offence thus caused; and "Routine Check" recounts the annoyance at getting pulled over for the offence of being black men in a Mercedes. "What d'you mean, 'routine check'? I didn't take this route to be checked," protests the brother.

It's in the album's more lovelorn corners, though, that the similarities with The Streets are most evident. In "Wish I Did The Same", a brother worries about one girl's late period, contemplating a future spent buying baby food, while at the same getting gyp from another girl over his failure to stay in college; and in "She's Got It All Wrong", which could well be an outtake from A Grand Don't Come for Free, Skinner pleads his case against his girlfriend's girlfriends, whose poisonous tongues have soured their relationship.

But this album's "Dry Your Eyes" is surely the poignant "Alone With The TV", in which one of the brothers regrets not having paid more attention to his girlfriend's complaints: too late, he returns home with a peace-offering Chinese takeaway and a DVD of Love Actually ("cos I thought that's what it was"), but winds up watching it alone. Sad doesn't come close: can there be any more pathetic image in modern culture than a bloke enduring Curtisland on his own?

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