FATBOY SLIM Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars (Skint)

Being of the unfashionable opinion that Norman Cook hadn't done anything musically worthwhile since The Housemartins split, I approached "Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars" with some trepidation. After all, whilst the rest of the world grooved to "You've Come A Long Way, Baby", it seemed to these ears to be nothing more than the sound of The Chemical Brothers messing around in a garden shed.

Happily, though, the latest Fatboy platter is an entirely different beastie: well, maybe it’s exactly the same, only more so, but something here and me have clicked this time around. The opening "Talking Bout My Baby" - and you have to respect a guy who can get away with creating a love song for his new wife hewn substantially from other people's tunes - demonstrates exactly how to get anthemic using only a piano loop and a Wet Willie sample, a gorgeous slab of soul that's about as distanced from big beat clich as Cook could possibly get. If you’re in search of 'proper' songs, with words and choruses and that, steer towards the two fine Macy Gray collaborations, "Love Life" and "Demons". The closing "Song For Shelter" is excellent as well, a hymn of praise to house music, all night long.

Charitably ignoring the fact that proceedings sag a little in the middle, "Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars" is at least partway towards being a great album. In fact, I'd have to travel as far back in time to The Chemical Brothers' "Dig Your Own Hole" or Roni Size Reprazent's "New Forms" to find a British dance music album that betters it.