Undeniably, Fatboy Slim (aka Norman Cook) achieved considerable commercial and critical success with the You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby album, previously released in 1998. Although granted, the album was not perfect, it didn’t take very long before he released his next album in 2000, the inappropriately yet appropriately named Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars. This is seen as a weaker effort, but still, it needs to be heard to be judged. Let’s do just that.
Talking Bout My Baby begins with some old school sounding piano playing which is nicely looped and electronically edited. This is somewhat catchy. Soon enough, some wah-wah sounds enter and this piece gets underway. Some vocal samples are stereo panned and enter this piece. It’s a take on an old-school Soul tune, and this isn’t as dramatic as it could be. Still, the tune is okay and the musical variety is appreciated regardless. Unfortunately, this isn’t as original as it could be and is somewhat reminiscent of Moby’s not-so-clever works on his own Play album. Some looped and repeated vocal samples and other sonic sounds enter here towards the end. It gets very Psychedelic towards the end and improves as it becomes quite catchy. Right towards the end, this piece gets flowing nicely. A good effort so far.
Star 69 may loosely refer to sexual positioning. It begins with a vocal sample of someone saying, “What the f***?” and beats and textures slowly enter. A strange piece of tune enters and this track gets underway. It launches into a far better piece of music than what was before it, and it is a good piece of straightforward and driven EDM. This isn’t dissimilar to some of the music that The Chemical Brothers were exploring at the time: straightforward yet tasty House music. The tune here may not be overly memorable, but it still is good enough for what it is. Some grinding and interesting textures are here towards the middle of the track, and the tune itself is very enjoyable. A good and interesting listening experience. There is a breakdown in the second half, and the looped vocal resume. This is okay, it’s not the most inspired EDM out there, but Fatboy Slim is a clever man behind the decks and he does impress fans, even if the music here is a little bland and repetitive for many out there compared to earlier offerings. A great yet trashy listen. The end of the tune has looped and delayed vocals that are really quite annoying, followed by a liquid sounding ending.
Sunset (Bird Of Prey) begins with a rather ordinary male singer singing away. By this point, it is evident that this album is rather a disappointment for EDM fans in particular. It’s good, but the sounds present aren’t overly original and the looped vocals present are rather unimpressive. To do the Moby thing and just sample random vocals to throw a track down isn’t the best idea if it isn’t well thought out, and sadly this is the case here. Some Acid style squelches and other Electronic sounds enter next before this track builds up and gets kicking with some decent breakbeats. Again, this is good but probably not great. It is what it is, however. The vocals get a little annoying after a while, but the breakbeats are really fantastic, although the Fatboy is simply the Amen Break with a bit of editing. In the middle is a strange sounding section with Acid EDM styled sounds galore before this rather repetitive tune resumes. The beats are wonderful, although the music isn’t as good as it could be. “Bird of prey, flying high,” gets really annoying to hear on repeat over and over again. Still, this is okay, just not as memorable nor listenable as the stuff from the previous album. Nice to hear but just not the best. Towards the end of the tune is a build-up of sounds and textures with an Acid feel, just as this tune wraps up. It’s annoying to hear, but good anyway.
Love Life has a very New York musical feel to it from the beginning. This is a big improvement on what came before…until Macy Gray’s vocals enter. Her voice is most suited to the music that she herself makes, not Fatboy Slim’s music. The groove itself is great, but the addition of Macy Gray really ruins the music present in this song. Surely quality control was an issue on these songs? Apparently not so. This tune leaves a lot to be desired, and although this song’s backing track is nice and funky, this is simply a glove that does not fit. A weird and messed up tune that is worth skipping, it sounds as though Fatboy Slim attempted to make a great record but fails miserably here. In any case, this gets particularly awful in the second half, and the tune present isn’t worth exploring. Very awful and cringe-worthy even, this is really terrible to listen to. Macy Gray’s voice isn’t the greatest either in the first place, goodness knows how and why Fatboy Slim thought that this was a great idea musically. Towards the end is a slight saving grace, bombastic and pounding drumbeats before this terrible song concludes after nearly seven minutes. Rubbish.
Ya Mama begins with some funky guitar loops, and this tune quickly gets going. This is the best track so far and is the most popular track from this rather patchy album. You can hear why, it is headbanging good with a bunch of Cyberpunk 2077 styled textures, years before the video game concept existed. A really fun, fast and excellent piece of musical work, this is for those EDM fans who dig straight ahead House and Techno, especially the former. Nonetheless, this sounds cool and amazing. There is a very The Chemical Brothers styled breakdown near the middle before this tune kicks supercharged again. This is the musical equivalent of some good hard drug experiences that one may have, in a sonic format. There is a break with a rather ear piercing Roland TB-303 sounding patch before some additional sounds enter to make this amazing tune become even more alive. Soon enough, some straightforward electric guitar enters the scene, before the track gets insanely great towards the end. If you must hear any track from this album, this is the one. Nice effort Fatboy. The outro is glorious.
Mad Flava is awful from the start. It sounds absolutely terrible and to be honest, this is another attempt at past glories. It is just garbage and like a mad dictator of note, should have been purged by now into obscurity. It is funky and crappy, there is absolutely nothing worth note of here. The whole piece sounds as though Fatboy Slim himself had a big drug session and this tune is the result. Understandably, although he was attempting to grow and change as an artist, this is definitely not the way to go about it. Just awful and the melodies throughout are very terrible. If you can skip this track and not listen to this at all, do so. This is the equivalent of bad Rap music today, it just doesn’t work at all. It’s four minutes of musical torture, and plain terrible.
Retox begins with some subsonic basslines that are actually fairly decent. Some deep male vocals are looped, and it is fairly obvious that Fatboy Slim is following an agenda here. This is a big improvement on the last track, but still, it is imperfect. Anyway, the funky guitar present is totally decent and the tune itself is otherwise okay. Nothing memorable, however, it sounds much better than what came before it regardless. It sounds as though Fatboy Slim, instead of making a great album, consigned this to the dustbin of history with a mediocre here today, gone tomorrow piece of EDM trash. The subsonic bassline and male vocals return in the second half before the track basically repeats again. A very poor idea musically and this honestly goes on longer than it should. Good, but still not great man. Enough to put one to sleep, this is boring music. Some repeated vocals that have some basic sound effects thrown onto it conclude this rather naff track.
Weapon of Choice (feat. Bootsy Collins) has an interesting single release video with Christopher Walken in it. It begins with some leftover sounds and samples from the previous album, which are nicely done and looped. Soon enough, once this tune launches, it is fantastic. Bootsy Collins plays an excellent bass guitar that is rhythmic and funky. This is a much better listening experience than you’d expect from this album, it has distorted vocals and wonderful instrumentation to match the tune. A great and interesting tune to dance to, this is proof that Fatboy Slim still had some magic in his music, and this and Ya Mama make this album, whilst very much the rest of the album fails. There is a vocal referencing the album title as well, which is very nice. Something that is a unique mixture of likely drug-inspired creativity, this tune is worth it. The outro could have been cut down a little, however, and it exceeds the five minute mark. Still, it is very good. It ends with a bunch of weird noises leading into the next track.
Drop The Hate begins with more looped sounds and a Church preacher being sampled here. Soon enough, this leads into the centrepiece of this song and this tune doesn’t sound incredibly good, although it has double-tracked breakbeats that do sound nice and punchy. This also samples some incredible singing and the sample is quite a good performance vocally. Despite this, this is a heavily flawed album and the album itself is a chore to get through. This tune is ordinary otherwise and needs some heavy editing. It gets particularly awful in the second half, and again, is enough to make one cringe. By this time, we get the point, this is not a very good album and we are aware of that. It ends abruptly followed by several seconds of silence.
Demons – Extended begins with more distant sounding piano and some background melodies that are looped. Some deep and nimble bass guitar styled sounds then enter, along with some unusual percussion sounds. This takes a while to get started, and it isn’t really that exciting as a result. Macy Gray’s singing is terrible for this music, yet again, and she doesn’t match the music here at all. Sadly, this is quite a failure for a piece of music that is on an album like this, although is a more popular piece of music here. In any case, this is not an impressive album by this point anyway and the tune present is really awful. An irritating tune that could have been bettered or junked, this is a good tune for those who smoke some of the hardest bad drugs out there. An awkward fusion of music and an unnecessary vocal part, sadly, this fails. Anyway, it’s okay for something on an album that is totally mediocre. Really unusual sounding as well. The outro is cool though, with some interesting basic beats and textures. This also could have been edited down a lot as well. Weird, and not that good. It ends with a drum hit that has a sweep delay on it.
Song for Shelter is the last tune on this album and is well over 11 minutes long. It begins with dreary atmospheric sounds that are a direct rip-off of the intro of Right Here, Right Now. Fairly uninspired, but some good male vocals enter soon into it. A really good piece after some time, it has some good wah-wah guitar and other sonic sounds to boot. This gradually builds up nicely, before the tune really gets kicking. An enjoyable listen, with some very interesting and a great Sitar-led climax. Surprisingly good to finish with, this is a relaxing and warm sounding tune. This is obviously something druggy and inspired by drug use. The vocals stop, and this tune builds up in an exciting and decent way. The tune here is obviously designed for an Ibiza style mix. This isn’t a million miles away from something like the music on Primal Scream’s Screamadelica album, it just flows normally and naturally, like that album did. A really decent and lengthy EDM House Music piece, this is nice and enjoyable and great to listen to. A fine tune, it goes back into the atmospheric and dark washes of sound in the second half that repeats on for a long time. These are eventually electronically treated and flow back and forth through the mix. This is pretty weird. After some time, some samples that are reversed enter, and the album concludes back where we started with a repeat of the first track. A really incredible and good listen, the music present is enjoyable for a conclusion. It ends up being dwarfed by some delay noises, which ends the album here. An LSD trip musically, but not a good one. The album ends here.
This album could have been much better than it is. Understandably, Fatboy Slim wanted to move on stylistically and musically. Sadly, this is not the way to do so. The music here sounds incredibly druggy and out of place, and it may have helped if fewer party pills were consumed and more effort was placed into the music at hand. Sadly, this is unimpressive. Certainly not the worst of EDM, but far from being the best of it either.