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
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
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
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
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
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.