Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars - FatBoy Slim 
While I'm pissing people off with this list, I'm going to throw this out there: FatBoy Slim's You've Come A Long Way, Baby is one of the best commercial dance records ever made.
There, I said it.
Block the overplayed irritation that is The Rockafeller Skank for a minute and you have an album of simple perfection: funking great dance tunes with singles coming out of every pore. Take that, Homework, you boring bastard.
So I'm going to follow up that contentious statement with this one: his follow-up, Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars, is one of the most underrated commercial dance records ever made.
There, I said it.
Take a stroll through Amazon and you'll find love for You've Come A Long Way, Baby, appreciation for excellent chrysalis of a debut Better Living Through Chemistry (cunning little grower) and appallingly good reviews for the appallingly appalling Palookaville, which is a massive pile of shit. But Halfway... - nothing. No one's a fan.
Maybe they don't like change. Fans bizarrely felt betrayed when Norman Cook started writing songs about the new woman in his life, Zoe Ball, even though Talking 'bout My Baby is an self-explanatory cracker of an intro. I don't know why: it's not like this was Morrissey suddenly writing love songs to puppies - Cook just moved from looping "FatBoy Slim is fucking in Heaven" to "I want to go out on a picnic with you, baby, under the big bright yellow sun."
My own view is that people felt let down by FatBoy's decision to work with guest vocalists for the first time - a change in direction suggested to him by good friends The Chemical Brothers, who had reaped the rewards by bringing in indie kings from the mainstream (Noel Gallagher on Let Forever Be and number one single Setting Sun) and the more obscure (Beth Orton and Mercury Rev).
I was sceptical too at first that this would work with FatBoy's big beat sound, but it would be absurd to say Weapon Of Choice is a weaker single because it features vocals from Bootsy Collins. It's not. It's a brilliant tune. And Demons, one of two tracks featuring Macy Gray (incidentally raped on his Greatest Hits, cut down from nearly seven minutes to just over three), is one of the best songs he ever made.
Anyway, it's not like he lost the big tunes. Ya Mama is a floorfiller in the truest sense of the phrase, and Mad Flava is, for want of a real word, funkadelic. Even Star 69 transcends its appalling 'lyrics' to show its true colours as a dance anthem.
But it's three songs in a row that define this album's brilliance: tracks 8 through 10. There's slam-classic Weapon Of Choice, which I've already mentioned. Then there's Drop The Hate, a baptist minister-sampling thumper with a fantastic build up and drop that possibly surpasses even Praise You. Then there's Demons, with its ace video, Bill Withers piano and Macy Gray growl; an almost soulful piece of big beat artistry that kicks the bollocks off anything Basement Jaxx ever made.
The critics are wrong. Once again I'm self-consciously defending a choice, but Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars is a superb modern dance album. It's just a shame Norman Cook went on to make wank like Palookaville and That Old Pair Of Jeans.
Another talent reducing himself to nothing. Man, this decade's been depressing.
No Spotify link - ever - but listen to the album if you can; your complaints will be stronger if you do.
2 years ago