Palookaville is Fatboy Slim’s belated follow-up to Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars…well, more specifically, a follow-up to Spike Jonze and Christopher Walken’s video for that album’s single “Weapon Of Choice,” given the album itself was something of a dud that could barely retox the freak in Macy Gray. A dance record reportedly inspired in part by working with Blur (because nothing screams dance-floor heaven more than Damon Albarn!), Norman Cook’s meandering mess of an album conjures nothing so big-beated as a Bridgeman’s Muzak version of Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” which is bad news for any album that flaunts a guest appearance by Bootzilla-fucking-Collins. Boasting “traditional-structured songs,” with bridges and recapitulations (as though “Rockafeller Skank” wasn’t a genius bit of structural-bending modern pop songwriting), the album is an almost patently obvious repudiation of Cook’s long-resented reputation as a DJ for frathouse preludes to date rape. (Which, come to think of it, doesn’t explain what inspired him to cut a lax cover of the Steve Miller Band straight-guy anthem “The Joker.”) Whereas on his early recordings, Fatboy’s taste for twangy guitars would sound, at turns, like the Beach Boys standing on their heads, The Munsters’ theme song on a 28.8k connection, or Catalina Caper chase music, all the guitars on Palookaville (when they show up) sound like Top Gun Kenny Loggins. When they don’t show up, the album’s target audience seems to shift up three voting demographics. “North West Three” plunders the woozy Tropicalia aural paradisiac that Luke Vibert and BJ Cole had already perfected in 99, though I guess a warm breeze is a warm breeze. The Tahitian treatment is certainly preferable to the two would-be house rockers: the frenetic but ultimately flustered “Jin Go Lo Ba” and the album’s downright embarrassing breakthrough single “Slash Dot Dash,” which might’ve been topical in 95…back when he was recording the hilarious “Michael Jackson.” It’s a fragmented and capricious listen, and not in a feverishly heady sense. But for what it’s worth, the Fatboy-Lateef collaboration on “Wonderful Night” is an odd anomalous genre mutt, another in what could be legitimately referred to as a career of novelty hits.
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