Album Reviews

Fatboy Slim – Palookaville

(Steve Hands) UK release date: 4 October 2004

Maybe it’s unlikely that any record from a 40-odd year old can negotiate the zeitgeist like Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come A Long Way Baby LP, but Palookaville’s charms lie in the fact that it doesn’t really try. As your Mum’s favourite superstar DJ, the Fatboy’s cut-ups still sound as if they were concocted in the early days of the legendary Heavenly Social, where genres mixed and matched in the holy cause of the greatest night out ever.

Here with the aid of Latyrx‘s mighty Lateef, the Fatboy goes so far as to state boldly that “It’s a wonderful night / You’re better take it from me”, a sentiment all his records could be said to imply.

It’s been almost a decade since Quentin ‘Norman’ Cook adopted the Fatboy Slim persona. Ten years since he re-introduced a level of chemical-inspired Looney-tunes-ism and tomfoolery to dance floors that were becoming burdened by the po-faced seriousness of Progressive House and the aggressive tendencies of post-Wu-Tang Hip-Hop.

Since his days as a Housemartin, some might say it’s been a long, strange trip. Tumultuous beach parties in his beloved hometown, the media marriage, the Ibiza-in-extremis lifestyle and A-list Hollywood actors in his videos were the stuff of an unlikely celebrity. Born into a generation of 24-hour party people, Cook now claims to have cut down on the late-nite partying, and the Family Cook have as good as disappeared from the ever-intrusive radar of the red-tops.

Circling gossip-vultures may find fodder in Mi Bebe Masoquista (My Masochistic Baby), where Reef-like riffs give way to sc-sc-scratches and sampley big-boss beats. Its Fat-Boy-on-automatic but the phrase “My masochistic baby went and left me” will keep the 3 AM girls interested.

As with Praise You, Cook has the gift of making introspection sound like Holy Communion. Push And Shove, the collaboration with Justin Robertson, offers sly glimpses into the Cook household: “Time they say is a great healer/But I believe in chemicals baby/When the waves come crashing in/We are closer than ever”. As with much of the record, the track is live, but so magpie are Cook’s instincts it still sounds multi-referential, as though directly lifted from the dubbed- out disco of Arthur Russell and the baggy bounce of the Charlatans at their best.

If it all sounds a little 1998, Palookaville is Fatboy free of the burden of following-up success that limited the appeal of 2000’s Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars. Despite that, virtually every track is as informed by a life of professional clubbing as anything he’s done since Freakpower.

The Sunday Best Arcadian lush of North West Three is destined to be a gastro-pub favourite as first-time parents leaf through their Observer contemplating a post-chemical life and nappies. An irresistible re-tooling of Babatunde Olatunji‘s Jin Go La Ba into an Afro-House beat-fest means the Pizzaman is a long way from hanging up his slipmats.

Despite its endless derivations, Palookaville succeeds as a collective piece of work. Even the now-familiar bass-bin worrying low-end frequencies of Long Way From Home (as heard on the O2 adverts) appear fresh and re-invigorating. Since the Fat-Boy melting-pot has suffered in the hands of lesser mortals like Junior Senior, Palookaville smoothes out the loop-sodden ‘wackiness’, and is all the better for featuring some olde worlde-style ‘songs’. The not-so-fat one even manages to crowd out Damon Albarn‘s smug-dilettante tendencies with the sundown campfire-plucking of Put It Back Together.

Yup, there is filler. Song For Chesh is kitchen-sink Fatboy, a fragmentary vocal there, arching strings there, a striding bass-line and some dusty-fingered stock drums, and new single Slash Dot Dash belongs back in a bin of Skint cast-offs. But maybe Cook’s right in leaving the last word to aaahhh.Bootsy Collins for some slap-bass fun on a version of Steve Miller‘s The Joker.

It has to be said that we all love Norman for being “a joker, a midnight-toker” and for playing his music in the sun. Palookaville is your goofiest, stoopidest, and most smiley-face-est 53 minutes and 25 seconds in Ibiza. You didn’t really expect anything else, did you?

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More on Fatboy Slim
Fatboy Slim – Why Try Harder: The Greatest Hits
Fatboy Slim – Palookaville
Fatboy Slim – Big Beach Boutique 2