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LABEL: Astralwerks RELEASE DATE: October 19, 1998 GENRE: Big Beat; Electronic
// review by Jeff

Fatboy Slim is doing WHAT in Heaven? Probably boogie-ing down.

This was definitely the shining moment for Fatboy Slim, also known as the British king of big beat funk, Norman Cook. Released in 1998, it was able to hold its own against other popular genre artists of the time, including The Chemical Brothers, Crystal Method, and The Prodigy. But forget all the comparison shopping: I'm here to give the lowdown about this brilliant piece of work. Ever since I picked it up for cheap in a bargain bin area, I've realized that I found a great bargain. As soon as the first set of beats drop, you know you're in for a funky ride. Mr. Slim is also not against the extensive use of sampling on this album; in fact, there are a HELL of a lot of samples floating around on here (about 24 different sources, last time I checked). But I guess that's the way with electronic music: incorporating what's already wonderful into something new and making it even more excellent. Fatboy Slim must be the master of that, with perhaps Moby also taking some of the cake.

This record is all over the place, but keeps a fairly consistent tone throughout. As the trippy Arabic sound of Right Here, Right Now begins, you can be swept off to a psychedelic dancefloor in your mind. Okay, maybe not, but it's a great starter track to get you in a more party-based mood. And then, one of Mr. Slim's biggest hits of all time starts to play and you can't help but chime in and shout along. You hear it: "Right about now... the funk soul brotha..." You know that The Rockafeller Skank is here and stupid-looking dancing is imminent. This 7-minute track alone helped shuffle many copies of the album because of its insatiable vocal hook and 70s hippie musical style. And who could forget In Heaven, the great song that used the word "fucking" over 100 times in less than four minutes? That's REALLY why anybody bought this album, right? Actually, THAT song is a bit over the limit for me because it could have been much more tastefully done. Can't win 'em all. It's still a funky song if you don't pay attention to the clearly obvious lyrics, "Fatboy Slim is fucking in Heaven", repeated.

Gangsta Tripping is just that: gangster tripping, a happy trip-hop track with gangster vocals in the background. Released later as a single with the last 'g' omitted, the song has some spunk to it, though it would never be as popular as The Rockafeller Skank. Fatboy Slim shows off his extensive big beat styles again with Build It Up, Tear It Down; not one of the most listened songs on the album, but I can still dig it. Then we get into Western territory. Kalifornia, to be exact. No, I spelled that correctly. That's some crazy psychedelic shit going on right there, while a heavily roboticized voice chants that "Kalifonia is druggy, druggy, druggy, druggy..." And maybe that voice is correct, maybe not, but it's one of the best tracks on the album. Then, in Soul Surfing, suddenly I hear some guy saying "Jack it off, jack off", and I wonder what he could possibly be referring to. Or maybe it's some miscommunication right there. Huh. The rest is definitely another 70s soul tribute, featuring hippie-style instrumentation and Shirelles-wannabes singin' it up. If you want to party, take this track to heart. And then follow it up with You're Not From Brighton, perhaps the most generic, but still jammin', track on the record.

Praise You. You've seen the video. You've heard the song. And you either like it or you hate it. I hate the video, that's for certain (and in 1999, they wouldn't stop playing the damn thing), and I don't really care for the song either. Taking poetry from cultural activist, poet, and performance artist Camille Yarbrough, it's sampled seamlessly into a piano-based melody of goofy dance frenzy. Should've left her work alone. But it's merely an indiscernable stain on an otherwise amorous journey of sound, emphasized by the last two tracks, the acidically basic Love Island and the even more acidic and even more addictive Acid 8000. Don't listen to these while ON acid, or you'll end up going crazy and trying to drive a tree down the road. It doesn't work.

It's often very difficult to put a musical work into words, and this is one of those times. All I can say is that it deserves your attention, and it will arguably forever go down as Fatboy Slim's best work. His subsequent albums, "Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars" and "Palookaville", failed to reach the same plateau, although kudos are in order for using Christopher Walken in a music video. That's always worth a good laugh. But seriously, snag it whenever you can and play it at a party. People will love you, and dogs will be kind and defecate on your neighbours' lawns instead. Oh yeah, it's that good.


9.0/10

Kalifornia


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