Fatboy’s Fall From Grace
Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, has enjoyed a long stay at the top of experimental dance mixology. One might even call him the fun side of DJ Shadow, ripping old songs and vocals, blending electronic and live sounds to create something fresh and catchy. It’s disappointing then, that four years after the release of his last album as Fatboy Slim, Cook’s comeback with Palookaville is less than stellar.Palookaville was supposedly created using all live instruments, which may explain why the album feels contrived, slow, and boring compared to his earlier work. There are additional elements of 90’s-era sound effects, which do not mesh at all with the modern instrumentation, the styles are too disparate for the songs to feel finished. There is not one voice to bind all of the songs together, so the vocals are overbearing, despite being contributed by artists such as Bootsy Collins and Lateef. It even sounds like the Chipmunks make an appearance, removing any vocal dignity, but not in the humorous sense one would expect from Fatboy Slim. The dance element has been all but removed, watered down to a slow, chugging beat that has no substance. Last but not least, Cook’s choice to cover the Steve Miller Band classic “Joker” leaves one grinding their teeth up until the end.
That being said, there are redeemable moments on the album. Yet they are overshadowed by the incongruent effects, stripping the music of any illusion of success. Some might consider this an evolution for Cook, and a step in a more contemporary direction. However, others will consider it a step (perhaps multiple steps) into the dog-doo of bad mixing.