Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Weapon Of Choice

Fatboy Slim's "The Greatest Hits: Why Try Harder" is out this week and PopMatters posted a review that argues for a reevaluation of Norman Cook's most famous alias because "the musical establishment is predisposed to dismiss artists who don't take themselves very seriously, and you've got a profound disconnect between the quality of the music on display and the disrespect accorded to Slim by critics across the globe." I've been following Fatboy Slim since my buddy starting playing "Everybody Loves A 303" off a compilation for his college radio show and I picked up the import of his first album the week it came out based on hearing it at record store listening station so it's been a bit strange to see him exploding onto the pop culture landscape with a handful of hit videos and commercial radio play. The "dance music for frat boys" insult has become synonymous with Slim, but I would agree with PopMatters that:

In a very real way, Fatboy Slim changed the rules. Even moreso than the Chemical Brothers or the Prodigy, Fatboy Slim proved that dance music could compete with pop on its own terms and more importantly, he also proved that dance music and pop weren't as far apart as most people probably believed. Whereas previous commercially successful artists such as Orbital, Leftfield and Massive Attack had sometimes gone out of their ways to seem more recondite than they actually were, Fatboy Slim could never be mistaken for aloof. He was, and remains an extremely user-friendly musician, someone who still believes his highest calling as an artist is to play fun records at parties. You've got to respect that.

: Two of Cook's mixes for other artists are included on "Why Try Harder" and the review notes that many of his remixes outshine the originals. The last few years have seen a decided shift in critical opinion on the importance of remixes as works of art and it's certainly worth considering that Cook's consistency inspired some of the attention that DFA and Ewan Pearson receive from the likes of Pitchfork as their every mix is analyzed. Would this had happened if people hadn't started collecting Fatboy Slim mixes into compilations? I doubt it.
Listen to "Why Try Harder" here.

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