Review of The BPA's album 'I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat' released through Southern Fried Records.
With a musical career spanning nearly three decades and a celebrity persona that has taken many different guises over that time, it's little wonder that Norman Cook is still held in such high esteem by many both within the music industry and those who spend their hard-earned cash on the produce he and his cohorts churn out every so often.
It was actually towards the end of his days as a Housemartin that he first hooked up with Simon Thornton, then a young aspiring record producer from his hometown of Brighton. Since then, Thornton has been instrumental in Cook's various projects from Beats International through to Freakpower and of course the guise for which he is best known, Fatboy Slim. Now, twenty-four years after their first collaboration, Cook and Thornton have created their most audacious legacy to date. The BPA - which stands for Brighton Port Authority - is a grandiose collection of tracks that spans many genres, all of which are moulded together by Cook's trademark big beats and an impressive list of co-stars from all areas of the musical spectrum.
In the record's sleeve notes, Cook describes 'I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat' as his 'Smile', an ominous statement if ever there was one that would undoubtedly be coming back to haunt many lesser artists by now. Not Cook it seems; having been around the business to know all the pitfalls connected with being a musician, he should at least be commended for effort even if the end result perhaps doesn't quite match his salubrious expectations.
'I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat' is something of a mixed bag comprising of twelve tracks in all, which if the truth be told is probably a good four too many at least, even though the inclusion of guest vocalists from the likes of Iggy Pop, Jamie T, Emmy The Great and long-time cohort Ashley Beedle at least gives the record differing levels of variation perhaps not previously associated with any of Cook's previous, often one-dimensional if occasionally groundbreaking works.
'Toe Jam', which features vocal interplay between David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal is perhaps the most obvious choice for radio listeners, and isn't too bad provided you can cope with the more than healthy dose of cheese that insists on being high up the song's list of agendas. Iggy Pop's spoken word cover of The Monochrome Set's 'He's Frank' is also worth the entrance fee, along with 'Spade', which features Martha Wainwright in uncharacteristic reggae-centric mode.
The rest of the album is pleasant enough in itself, and the return of Jamie T in rockier pastures on 'Local Town' is a blessing from the often-misguided mockney-isms of some of his solo material. The bottom line though, is whether or not words like 'pleasant' or 'nice' have the same resounding longevity as 'vital' or 'relevant', and as a result, 'I Think We're Gonna Need A Bigger Boat' falls short of being the life-affirming album Norman Cook so dearly wanted it to be.
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