Fatboy Slim – Palookaville


Life in Palookaville is a funny old place. The Palooka’s clearly haven’t left behind the glory days of brash ol’ big beat, cause this music sounds as baggy pants as 1996. The repetitive, bouncing lyrics, huge build-ups and storming come-downs found on the likes of You’ve come a long way, baby or Halfway between the gutter and the stars may have been moderately successful for five minutes back in the day, but they sure ain’t got enough leverage to rock on into the noughties.

The formula that has worked well for Norman Cook aka Fatboy in the past seems to have this time left critics scratching their heads in consternation or tuning out in boredom. Part of the problem with having a signature sound is that when the industry has evolved, certain artists seem to be left further and further behind.

It is easy to imagine people thrashing around like mentalists in commercial nightclubs to the supremely irritating and hypercharged Slash Dot Dash, with layers of staccato lyrics over the top of a rockabilly riff, or the maddening Jingo, which smacks of bad rave build-ups and frantic TV advertising material. Much of rest of the album seems to consist of lazy stoner ditties that drift rather than delight.

Fatboy has said his aim on this album was to collaborate with other artists, attempting to distinguish between “Fatboy Slim the DJ” and “Fatboy Slim the Recording Artist”. To create the distinction, he has forayed into the world of real instruments and even strums on the bass for a few of the tunes. There are moments when this newer approach almost works—the funky little Wonderful Night, which uses real human voices and cute drums, isn’t bad, and neither is the drowsy, seventies tinged number featuring the talented Damon Albarn over rolling guitars. In fact, it’s the middle tunes that are OK, but these are let down by the weirdly dull Push and Shove or Long Way from Home. There is a distinctly rocky, bohemian feel to some of the tunes, but Fatboy hasn’t been brave enough to make a decisive break away from the big beat manifesto.

The tracks featuring Lateef are funky and summer-tipped, but on the strength of a couple of good tunes, I couldn’t recommend that this is an album to rush out and buy. The big beat selection isn’t hefty enough for the true-blue Fatboy fans, who would find the newer stuff too much of a diversion to be palatable. Too slow, too fast, and a little bit all over the place. So by no means controversial or groundbreaking, this is an inoffensive little offering that will appeal to the diehards but more than likely alienate even more potential fans. Still, I think the old man has life in him yet, as demonstrated by his phenomenal ability to pop up in new guises and genres all the time, so keep an eye on the Cook camp to see what he might come up with in future.