Fatboy Slim – Palookaville Review

Fatboy Slim – Palookaville
Astralwerks/Skint, 2004

1. Don’t Let The Man
2. Slash Dot Slash
3. Wonderful Night (ft. Lateef)
4. Long Way From Home (ft. Johnny Quality)
5. Put It Back Together (ft. Damon Albarn)
6. El Bebe Masoquista
7. Push and Shove (ft. Justin Robinson)
8. North West Three
9. The Journey (ft. Lateef)
10. Jingo
11. Song For Chesh
12. The Joker (ft. Bootsy Collins)

It’s been four long years since Norman Cook offered up a musical pallette in the form of Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars. Its most memorable moment may have come in the form of a Christopher Walken feature in the video for “Weapon of Choice” and the ensuing awards it garnered. And, hey, who doesn’t love familiar ’70s songs looped to a techno beat? If it works for the dance floor, it often works for the charts. Such was the continuing success of Fatboy Slim.

However, since Y2K, the majority of techno acts have faded into obscurity in the US. While pop, hip-hop and R&B were as prevalent on the charts then as they are today, there remains virtually no lingering of the electronica influx. Popular techno genres have shifted toward either retro-flavored new wave or fused with hard rock if not turning altogether gothic. In short, as The Prodigy has discovered with their latest release, there really doesn’t seem to be a place on the United States pop charts in 2004 for Fatboy Slim. The trends have shifted.

The only way to rekindle a difference in trends, of course, is to take the old and make it loveable all over again. One has to be reminded why they bought the last album four years ago, but introduce a new flavor that keeps stale nastiness at bay. It’s always a risk and sometimes it flops (see also: Metallica), but other times, it’s a fresh start and a whole new legion of fans (see also: Aerosmith). Sticking to the same formula only ensures a downward spiral (see also: Phil Collins).

So when Captain Cook’s latest offering opens with “Don’t Let The Man” featuring a clip from the ’70s hit “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band, it’s unsure as to whether he’s decided to venture into unknown territory. After all, he has had previous hits featuring clips from Steppenwolf and the like. Unfortunately, it takes all of forty-five seconds to make the determination which threw the majority of techno-based music out of the mainstream years ago: samples are okay, but rote repetition is not your friend. Three seconds repeated ad infinitum (or at least for 4:03) will not win friends and influence people. It may work when used sparingly, discretely in the background, or quirkily with offbeat style; it does not work over a generic beat with grating choral voices intermingling.

With that sour taste in the mouth, things only become more horrific with the second track (and first single ofthe disc), “Slash Dot Slash.” Repetitious? That would be the friendly way to put it. If you haven’t had the pleasure of hearing this abomination as of yet, let me transcribe this endless loop:


While frequenters of /. may be impressed in a horrible kind of way, the rest of us really should pass to save our sanity.

Admirably I suppose, the first two tracks of the disc are most certainly the worst. However, the rest falls into the Phil Collins trap offering positively nothing new, innovative, or even remotely interesting. Ten additional tracks feature various special guests, none of whom stick out in any way whatsoever aside from Bootsy Collins. The sampled loops all tend to be repetitive in nature, the beats are beyond bland, and the whole thing screams “generic” bigger than a bright yellow box with black text. Everything sounds exactly like Fatboy Slim as one would imagine, but instead of being comforting in that regard, it’s almost like a frightening trip back through time where one would cringe to believe this was once the fodder of hits.

Closing the album is a straight cover of Steve Miller’s “The Joker,” sung by no less than the aforementioned Bootsy Collins. The sad thing is, while it’s most certainly Bootsy in all of his grandeur, Norman Cook seems to have completely lost what makes Bootsy so wonderful — the funk. The track amounts to little more than the man singing a generic dance karaoke track, fancied up only by some funkalicious background vocals. While not awful, it most certainly reeks of wasted opportunity.

Sadly, it seems that the techno big dogs of yesteryear have not been able to morph to the present age. It’s only been four years, but that might as well be a decade with today’s ever-changing music trends and fickle listeners. Without a single track on the disc that stands out (aside from ear-bleeding annoyance) and no huge, mainstream guests to push, it’s time to get Walken and Spike Jonze on the speed dial before the entire country (and his label) push him to the backburner for good.