One can reasonably ask what Fatboy Slim has to prove: after a disappointing commercial streak and a short split with his wife, Palookaville, his most recent full-length, sounds less like a statement and more like more of the same. What is to be made of “Slash Dot Dash,” the album’s single, where once again Norman Cook, the man behind the Boy, vomits up irritating vocal loop mashed together with equally grating accompaniment? The experiments with guest vocals and live instruments which pop up throughout is sort of a catch-22: you’ll wish for more big beats at the time, but faced with that, it becomes appallingly clear that Cook’s vocal mashes, triplet breakdowns and paisley suits are all worn terribly thin.
The one place where it works is “Wonderful Life,” featuring Lateef. There’s plenty to like in his resonant, bendy toast, but the beats are too flat, the chorus too frat, and his flow too light to fill the dance floor. The busy “Long Way From Home” and “Put It Back Together” are held together by strong vocal performances, and “North West Three,” which uses cheesed-up strings to great effect, manage to keep things under control. “Jin Go Lo Ba,” of Santana (and previously, Olatunji) fame, has always been a strong remix candidate, but Fatboy brings too little to the table, and 15 years too late.
Arguably the worst song of the ’70s, Steve Miller’s “Joker” is updated as we’re joined by the reining king of comic guest appearances, none other than Parliament bassist Bootsy Collins. But no matter how much Bootsy shizzles and izzles, he can’t make up for the offensiveness of the original, or the calculated camp of the redo. Nor can he make up for Fatboy’s eroding stance in the 21st century.