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Fatboy Slim - Palookaville


Review: Jack Foley

IT'S been almost six years since Fatboy Slim, aka Norman Cook, hit the peak of his powers with the seminal dance-pop album, You've Come A Long Way Baby.

The years since have witnessed Mr Cook filling the beaches at Brighton, applying remix duties to a whole slew of artists (most notably, Groove Armada and Cornershop), and tossing in the disappointing follow-up album, Halfway Between The Gutter and the Stars.

Yet, try as hard as he might to mix things up a little (if you'll pardon the pun), old Fatboy himself has yet to conjure a track as instantly accessible as Right Here, Right Now, Gangster Trippin or Praise You, which remain the pinnacle of his achievements, and his most enduringly popular tracks.

The release of recent single, Slash Dot Slash, did little to dismiss the suspicion that, perhaps, Norman had run out of inspiration and was content to fall back on older material for easy money.

Slash Dot Slash isn't a bad track, coming with the same sort of infectious energy that made Gangster Trippin so funky, not to mention a demented guitar riff that could have been pulled straight from a Quentin Tarantino movie, but it didn't feel like that much of a stretch for the artist.

The same can be said for some of the material on the album, Palookaville - although to write it off as a lazy disappointment would be unfair.

Palookaville is a good album - and were it to swap places with You've Come A Long Way Baby, then it might be hailed as a dance-pop classic.

But times have changed and while there is a guilty pleasure in revisiting the Fatboy Slim disco, it's hardly cutting edge anymore.

The artist will probably point to the use of live instruments for the first time as evidence of how he has advanced, while Palookaville also boasts some high-profile guest spots.

Had it stuck its neck out a little more, then we might have appreciated it more.

When it's good, however, the album is very good.

The Damon Albarn track, Put It Back Together, for instance, feels less of a dance anthem, and more of a song, making you pine for more of the same (there's even a hint of The Beatles at their most psychedelic in some of the melodies).

While album opener, Don't Let The Man Get You Down, is a track of pure unadulterated joy, featuring a wacky, sing-along sample lyric of 'long hairy freaky people need not apply'. You'll be dancing around the bedroom (or the beaches of Brighton), with unbridled enthusiasm.

The blues gets a workout in the energetic Mi Bebe Masoquista, which features a telling sample from Masochistic Baby, while Justin Robertson provides some strong vocal support and some driving guitar and bass to the rock-fixated Push and Shove, which again finds the album at its strongest.

While the blissful North West Three provides some slinky beats for the chill-out brigade, courtesy of its sweet sax and well-worked sample from John and Beverley Martin's classic Primrose Hill.

But the album fails to sustain its early promise during the latter stages, with the Brazilian rhythms of Jin Go Lo Ba quickly sound repetitive, and Song For Chesh falling into the same trap as Slash Dot Dash in terms of being backward looking.

Final track, The Joker, an electronic cover of the Steve Miller classic, also feels like an odd choice to round things up with, and brings things to a flat, rather than uplifting finale.

Stick with it until track eight and you're sure to have a lot of fun with Palookaville. Thereafter, the journey feels a little tired.

Mr Cook may well have come a long way, baby, with his latest effort, but there's just that sneaking suspicion that he hasn't come far enough.

 

 

Track listing:
1. Don't Let The Man
2. Slash Dot Slash
3. Wonderful Night
4. Long Way From Home
5. Put It Back Together
6. Mi Bebe Masoquista
7. Push and Shove
8. North West Three
9. The Journey
10. Jin Go Lo Ba
11. Song for Chesh
12. The Joker

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