He’s a canny old sea dog, that Norman Cook. By going under cover as the Brighton Port Authority he fooled a few people to start with, giving his new project a bit of underground freshness with a story about the discovery of some long lost tapes. Yet having teamed up with Simon Thornton and a list of starry guests, the cloak is removed.
Yet much remains the same, despite the name change. It’s rather like the man with the freedom of Brighton beach has pitched up a windbreak right next to Fatboy Slim. The only difference being that where Slim went to older samples for a lot of his inspiration, and had some cracking videos to boot, the new BPA model has a hastily pulled-up deckchair for any guest wishing to drop by.
The dance album ‘with friends’ is starting to look rather long in the tooth, so as an original idea this isn’t perhaps Cook’s strongest. For sure a good time is had by all, which after all is the prime intention, but you can’t help feeling that the record promised a lot more than it has delivered.
An album looking to incorporate Iggy Pop with Emmy The Great and David Byrne with Cagedbaby is surely casting its net too far and wide. Contributions from the elder two are inevitably two of the album’s highlights, but do nothing to stem the disjointed flow of the album.
Taken separately, it’s easy to enjoy the jaunty ska of Ashley Beedle collaboration Should I Stay Or Should I Blow, while it’s good to see Justin Robertson cropping up again on the bassy Island. And it’s not as if any of the guest collaborations are particularly bad – just that they don’t offer anything new.
If you were put in a time capsule with this album you could easily be listening to anything from the height of big beat in the late 1990s, which in retrospect, was an area of dance music with surprisingly short staying power and few redeeming moments.
That many of them were Cook’s is a moot point – the feeling remains that he could be doing something a lot fresher than this, and that by covering all bases with regards to artists that are good and current he has played a safe drive down the middle of the fairway. As a DJ he remains on top of his game, yet as a producer you wonder if a more radical departure is in order.