http://assets-s3.rollingstone.com/assets/images/album_review/5e796a0f1073aa15c9aca7df203f2f5706a96d7a.jpg Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars

Fatboy Slim

Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars

Rolling Stone: star rating
Community: star rating
5 3.5 0
November 23, 2000

Where other electronica whizzes chase dance microgenres down futuristic blind alleys, Norman "Fatboy Slim" Cook mines riffs from every era like a hip-hop DJ. His big beat kicks down the velvet-rope exclusivity of drum-and-bass or two-step garage to welcome everyone, rockers and funkers included. "I'm gonna hold my cool, 'cause the music rules," P-Funk's Bootsy Collins states in "Weapon of Choice" on Fatboy Slim's new album, Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars.

Cook hasn't given up the dance-floor stomps that made him a million-seller with "The Rockafeller Skank," "Praise You" and the 1998 album that held them, You've Come a Long Way, Baby. His new album has its own catch phrases — "What the fuck," "Push the tempo," "Retox the freak in me" — with happy, gimmicky tracks to match, full of giddy anachronisms that could be called "retronica."

But even a party animal can sprout ambition. Following through on the gospel in "Praise You," the album moves from physical urges to spiritual needs. It begins by leering through "Talking Bout My Baby," and goes clubbing with chant-topped techno ("Star 69") and tranced-out Jim Morrison ("Sunset [Bird of Prey]"). In "Love Life," Macy Gray rides a squelchy, neo-P-Funk track, making sultry double entendres from lists, including the alphabet: "Gonna D ya, if I E ya, 'cause I wanna F ya." Danceable riffs ricochet through "Ya Mama" and "Mad Flava," with fuzzed guitars, buzzed keyboards and voices from raps to dance-hall growls to filtered loops. "Weapon of Choice" piles up vocal samples in a syncopated crossfire worthy of the BaBenzele pygmies.

Yet as the festivities peak, Cook seeks a higher plane. Putting looped rhythms behind a preacher (nineteen years after David Byrne and Brian Eno did), he revs up the Rev. W. Leo Daniels in "Drop the Hate" with double-time drums and sputtering synthesizers. Gray returns singing a club-going believer's promise — "All of your demons will wither away/Ecstasy comes, and they cannot stay" — over gospel piano chords (sampled from Bill Withers) that get mixed with Hare Krishna finger cymbals and electroboogie zaps.

The eleven-minute finale, "Song for Shelter," megamixes the album's first two songs into a meditation on unity and spirit, "as if Jesus was a DJ himself," moving from house thump to three minutes of beat-free chordal mantra to a closing chant. The song is overextended, and the album isn't as much flat-out fun as You've Come a Long Way, Baby. But Cook isn't just partying on. He's partying to transcend.

Album Review Main Next


Community Guidelines »
loading comments

loading comments...


Sort by:
    Read More
    Around the Web
    Powered By ZergNet
    Daily Newsletter

    Get the latest RS news in your inbox.

    Sign up to receive the Rolling Stone newsletter and special offers from RS and its
    marketing partners.


    We may use your e-mail address to send you the newsletter and offers that may interest you, on behalf of Rolling Stone and its partners. For more information please read our Privacy Policy.

    Song Stories

    “Bird on a Wire”

    Leonard Cohen | 1969

    While living on the Greek island of Hydra, Cohen was battling a lingering depression when his girlfriend handed him a guitar and suggested he play something. After spotting a bird on a telephone wire, Cohen wrote this prayer-like song of guilt. First recorded by Judy Collins, it would be performed numerous times by artists incuding Johnny Cash, Joe Cocker and Rita Coolidge. "I'm always knocked out when I hear my songs covered or used in some situation," Cohen told Rolling Stone. "I've never gotten over the fact that people out there like my music."

    More Song Stories entries »