Fatboy Slim is no more.
Buried under an avalanche of hype, the Fatboy finally surrendered to overkill and the shifting currents of the mainstream and popped his clogs. But Norman Cook has never been one to surrender. A passionate music fan, Cook long felt hemmed in by the Big Beat formula, and with Brighton Port Authority he recovers a little of his dignity – and a little of what made him Britain’s best loved producer as well.
Moving from The Housemartins to Beats International and then working at the forefront of the dance crossover, Norman Cook’s career has been far from a straight line. Recruiting a host of guest stars, the Brighton Port Authority album covers the progress of his musical education, whilst also pointing to possible avenues in the future.
Opener ‘He’s Frank (Slight Return)’ is a confident Stooges pastiche – so confident, in fact, that Iggy Pop agreed to sing on it. The Hives with a fatback drum beat, it shows just how much fun Norman Cook can have with his music, plundering from the past with no fear of retribution. Given his phenomenal record collection it is no wonder that Norman Cook displays such a knack for crafting commercial singles. ‘Dirty Sheet’ with Pete York will remain stuck in your head for days, while Jamie T’s contribution to ‘Seattle’ is spellbinding.
However, the album too often feels like a collection of tracks rather than a coherent work. The revolving cast only to serve to accentuate this with any recurring musical themes swamped by the distinct personalities of the guest vocalists. That’s not to say the material doesn’t sit well together – house kings Ashley Beedle and Justin Robertson sit side by side – but there is a lack of an overarching concept to hang the material onto.
Equally, some of the album fails to live up to the stellar cast. In particular, ending the record with a fairly routine cover of Nick Lowe’s ‘So It Goes’ is hardly groundbreaking. However, any pop mind that pairs David Byrne with Dizzee Rascal must surely be quick on the uptake, as the two urge each other on to greater heights. Hell, Byrne even discovers his street edge at one point and lets rip with a hefty curse over a lilting Caribbean rhythm. You really have to wonder how Byrne’s own legacy will affect Dizzee Rascal.
Overall, too much of ‘I Think We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat’ is too ephemeral to describe it as a classic. While some tracks point to future glories, too often you are reminded of the years of confusion that preceded it. But with a stunning cast, and Norman Cook’s Midas pop touch, Brighton Port Authority come through their maiden voyage relatively unscathed.