Review Summary: For Tomorrow: A Guide to Contemporary British Music, 1988-2013 (Part 40)
Never underestimate the power of the sweaty throng. The ability to amass and entertain the unwashed masses continues to make or break artists. Thing was, after the collapse of Madchester there was a void of truly decent floor fillers. Sure, top billing Britpop acts could fill festivals but they weren’t compelling people to dance. Enthusiastic sing-along? Sure. Gentle swaying? You better believe it. But nobody was cutting loose to Ocean Color Scene. Even the more dance inflected tracks by Blur and Pulp were stained with irony, the closest anyone was getting was the ye’ olde pogo and that only worked at shows.
With the breakthrough of The Chemical Brothers, big beat had arrived (And, okay, I guess electronica but lets not go there). Pulling the floor filling techniques of Madchester and fusing it to the chest thumping grandiosity of Britpop. The term “big beat” itself came The Big Beat Boutique, a club operated by Norman Cook.
As one of the key players in Briton’s ballooning DJ scene, Norman Cook cut his teeth on a national level by collaborating with other house artists. His career didn’t take off until he adopted the Fatboy Slim name and scored his first top 40 hit in 1997 with “Everybody Loves a Carnival”. But Cook’s true breakthrough came when he remixed Cornershop’s “Brimful of Asha” in 1998, taking the song to the top of the charts.
Cook’s second full length You’ve Come a Long Way Baby
, released in October 1998, opens with “Right Here, Right Now”. Clever. If any phrase sums up the appeal of the rave experience, an event dedicated to living in the moment as much as possible, its “Right Here, Right Now”. The fog machine’s are blasting, the crowd is cheering, and the beat is building. Then the beat drops and you’re launched into an aural pinball machine. The secret to Cook’s success is his way with layers. Dig the click clack percussion giving way to the steamrolled vocal hook then back out to those strings/sitars. Each layer slides under another for the perfect amount of time, letting you enjoy the moment while craving the next. “The Rockafella Skank” wields one of those rare hooks that’s seeped into international consciousness and still manages to be a metric ton of fun. “Gangster Tripping” and “Kalifornia” continue to beg to soundtrack skateboarding montages, their freewheeling sprawl still sounds like decks scraping across rails and wheels cracking against pavement. Speaking of skateboarding, in my dreams the cool send up of Brighton scene imitators “You’re Not From Brighton” sound tracked the main menu screen of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
(I have very lame dreams).
Big beat couldn’t stay but it produced its share of classics while it was around. Unlike many of his lesser contemporaries, Fatboy Slim’s You’ve Come A Long Way Baby
hasn’t aged a day and wont age until fun goes out of style. Its gumball mix of samples, stretched and skewed for your pleasure, continues to thrill and delight. Pick it up while the weather is still cold so you can enjoy it when it heats up.