Fatboy Slim – Why Try Harder: The Greatest Hits

(Skint/Sony BMG)

When you think of Fatboy Slim’s music, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the keys from Praise You? The Jim Morrison sample from Bird of Prey? Or is it the unforgettable (even if you want to) lyric – “funk soul brother, right about now, funk soul brother, check it out now” from the Rockafeller Skank? Whatever it is, there can be no doubt that throughout Fatboy Slim’s career, he has crafted some memorable tunes. His music has been used in ad campaigns, movies and video games, and has become engrained in popular culture (again, whether you like it or not). He is the herald of the Mid-Nineties breakout sound of “Big Beat” and is by far its greatest benefactor, stemming from the overwhelming success of his hit album “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby”.

Herein lies the difficulty in trying to sell a greatest hits compilation for the man. It’s not the music isn’t good (if a little dated in spots), or isn’t iconic, it’s just that it has been so damn overplayed that chances are you’ll hear the first few notes of a track and skip it due to the overwhelming “I’ve heard this a million times before” factor. Most of his biggest tracks make an appearance (the aforementioned Rockafeller Skank, Praise You, Bird of Brey, Gangsta Tripping, Right Here Right Now, Wonderful Night), albeit in easier to digest four minute versions… but the real treasures here are Fatboy’s remixes of Cornershop’s ‘Brimful of Asha’ and his seminal rework of Groove Armada’s ‘I See You Baby’. Both tracks take the original elements, slap on the big beat and take the groove to the next level of funkiness, and should not be missed.

As with any greatest hits compilation, it’s going to be notable for its omissions and occasionally dubious inclusions. Like what is the seventies surfer dross of ‘Slash Dot Dash’ doing on there, when the driving beats of ‘Star 69’ missed out? And why the hell did his consummate remix of the Beastie Boy’s ‘Body Movin’ get left out? I mean, come on, even the Beastie’s came out and said the remix took their original track to the next level, even going so far as to put it on their own greatest hits compilation (the only remix included might I add)… And it misses out on getting a call up over a track like the relatively unremarkable “Going Out of My Head”? That aside, there is still plenty of listening and funking goodness to be had here. ‘Weapon of Choice’ is still a ton of fun after all these years, and the build up and drop in ‘Right Here, Right Now’ is still epic.

By the end of the compilation you start to realise how distinctive his signature style really is. The man sometimes known as Norman Cook has always shown an affinity for separate rhythms and samples running in opposite speakers, not to mention jittery lyrics that make it sound like the CD is skipping. It’s a distinctive style, and though in points it feels somewhat dated, the CD as a whole is fun nostalgia trip into the sound you were probably listening to in the mid-nineties.