Release Date: Jan 6, 2009
Record label: Southern Fried
Genre(s): Indie, Rock, Pop
Norman Cook’s got a lot to own up to. When he was with Fatboy Slim, his schtick was relatively new and astounding. He was a self-conscious pastiche-maker, postmodern to the max, with an unrivaled understanding of the importance of using music videos shamelessly in an era where selling out was no longer quite as stigmatized. You’ve Come a Long Way Baby had no business being a platinum seller in the U.S., but with a little help from the last great pre-Malkovich Spike Jonze video and endless movie appearances of “Rockafellar Skank,” it succeed commercially by being ahead of its time culturally.
When Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, made waves with his 1998 hit-machine You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby, my vision of the artist himself was—and is—rather hazy. Sure, I knew “Praise You” and “The Rockafeller Skank”, but the anonymity of electronic musicians never really coalesced into a public image of who Cook was. Until recently, I was under the impression that he was, himself, fat.
Despite all the units Norman Cook has moved while working under his Fatboy Slim alias, the handle is attached to a lot of unfashionable baggage he'd likely prefer to leave in the 90s. So it's understandable that he'd want to start fresh with a new project known as the Brighton Port Authority. But concocting a ruse about how the album came about after discovering a cardboard box of dusty and undated reel-to-reel tapes of the BPA's lost studio sessions from the 70s seems foolish and unnecessary if the recordings were good enough to stand on their own merit.
Norman Cook's star has waned since the 1990s, when, as Fatboy Slim, he drilled the phrase "funk soul brother" into our minds. Hence the new pseudonym (the Brighton Port Authority) for what is basically another celebrity production vehicle. The guest list is impressive - there's everyone from Ashley Beedle to Martha Wainwright - but Cook's shtick of welded-together loops and samples remains the same, and it sounds wearied.
Nasa, The Spirit of Apollo(Anti-), £12.724 stars The BPA, I Think We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat(Southern Fried), £10.763 stars Lately, hip-hop seems to be less "where you're at", more "who you know". Kanye West's records have been mindful to include a verse or two from Lil Wayne and T-Pain; acknowledging music's newest firebrands while underlining he still has the cultural capital to pull them in. And Eminem's Crack a Bottle isn't so much a comeback single as a bid to reclaim a heavyweight title - featuring as it does 50 Cent, Dr Dre and himself locked in some entertaining three-way chest-thumping ("the elephants have entered the room!").