For years now I have had a strange fascination and love for The Beautiful South. Their smart lyrics and XTC like pop melodies have been more than infectious. How I had missed that the band spun off from the Housemartins I do not know. I had heard of the band and their album London Nil, Hull Four had been recommended to me quite often. On the flip side of that coin, I did know that one Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, had come out of the same band. The reason for that being Mr. Slim’s massive popular exposure due to being included in numerous teen movie soundtracks and popular Spike Jonze directed videos, one featuring a dancing Christopher Walken. Meanwhile, The Beautiful South has had success only in England.
The death of the DJ is fairly well nigh. And by that I don’t mean Fatboy, I mean all DJ’s. Whereas once people said that hip-hop and rap would fade away into fad heaven, now it seems that the peeps behind the turntables and mixing boards are the dinosaurs. Except for maybe The Avalanches, there’s not a lot of samplers or, what I like to call musaic (music + mosaic) makers doing well. We had a mediocre outing from the Prodigy this year while other successful acts from the early nineties simply petered out. Even the man I thought was going to be the savior of the genre, DJ Shadow, has been less than productive albeit active. So I didn’t know what to think when I found out Fatboy Slim was releasing another album, this one called Palookaville.
It starts out well enough with “Don’t Let the Man,” a track featuring the repeated line “and the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply” from the song “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band. Instead of Moby’s soul and gospel sampling, Fatboy goes for the super hits of the seventies. To each his own, and I’m sure just like Moby, Fatboy will be able to make some money off of this album by selling the songs to the highest bidder. I’m sure we’ll see a Volkswagen Beetle commercial with “Don’t Let the Man” very soon. “Slash Dot Dash” is an annoying if not somewhat interesting commentary on the internet age in which we reside.
Lateef guest stars on “Wonderful Night” and later in the album on “The Journey.” Yet again, I’m guessing the former song will end up in some kind of teen / high school angst film, preferably in the impossibly choreographed prom scene. Just where do all of those students find the time to work out a routine just for the prom? The latter song actually features Lateef rapping in 3/4 time, but that doesn’t make up for the flatness of the song. The best song from the album is “Put It Back Together,” a song featuring Damon Albarn, presumably returning the favor of Fatboy Slim contributing to Think Tank. Albarn sleepily sings his way through the song for good reason, he had just come from a wrap party, drunk and tired, before he laid down the vocals for the track, napping between each take.
“El Bebe Masoquista” becomes far too repetitive and dated to be enjoyable. Other songs on the album feature actual live musicians for the first time on one of Cook’s records. In fact, “Long Way from Home” marks the first time Cook has recorded himself on bass since his days with the Housemartins! “Push and Shove” makes you think the album could get better until “North West Three” continues the repetition marathon all over again. The x-factor on this record that puts it over the top into pure camp territory is the last song, a cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker” featuring Bootsy Collins. It’s probably one of the worst choices of a cover I can recall as well as being terrible rendition. I hope that Slim can chalk this up to getting amazingly high with Bootsy and then just acting on impulse; because any sober decision to create this monstrosity cannot be excused.
If only Mr. Slim would just make an entire album with Damon Albarn, everything might be O.K. Instead, he has made very small progressions with the inclusion of live instruments that just don’t equal up to the negative aspects of this album. The Steve Miller cover alone acts as an anchor, sinking the album into the depths of awful. Norman Cook should just hang up the Fatboy hat, make like Anderson and Butler, and reunite with Paul Heaton to make one hell of a pop record. Unfortunately, there’s so many copies of Palookaville floating about that he might never escape its gravitational pull.
The Prodigy- Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned
The Crystal Method- The Legion of Boom