Looking back on Fatboy Slim's discography, Palookaville is up against some stiff competition, which makes it the low point only because it isn't another beginning-to-end stunner. The Fatboy himself -- Norman Cook -- had given plenty of hints in the press before the album's release that this was going to be different. He went through marriage problems and declared a renewed interest in hip-hop over dance music, dance being a genre he sees as going through another dry period. Still, this isn't a "forget everything you know about..." album since the jittery "Slash Dot Dash" and "Jin Go Lo Ba" sound like old outtakes. They're the lesser tracks on an album that could have been tighter had Cook not played it safe by including them. There's so much more heart in the non-club numbers, with each one sounding inspired and full of that quirky Fatboy flair. A cover of Steve Miller's "The Joker" with Bootsy Collins on vocals is brilliant fun and the most direct example of the rolling along despite the nasty weather, naked hippy feel of the album. When Cook brings it down, he brings to mind the best of Tranquility Bass, just a lot more fun and approachable. For its hook, "Don't Let the Man Get You Down" uses the "long-haired freaky people" line from Five Man Electrical Band's "Signs" and guest singer Lateef's two appearances are nothing short of frolicsome. They offer the trippy ying to the marriage problem yang of "Put It Back Together" with Damon Albarn, and the intentionally maudlin "North West Three" (the first address where the recently patched-it-up Cook and Zoe Ball lived together). That "North West Three" samples from a husband-and-wife's record (John and Beverley Martyn's "Primrose Hill") is just one of Palookaville's deeper-than-before ideas. There are scars here, but with only hints of the specifics, you can apply Cook's heartbreak to any hurt of your own. Palookaville could stand one more trimming pass, but it gives Cook's canon the needed depth. Now there's a Fatboy Slim record for that rainy day and one the long-haired freaky people can enjoy.
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AllMusic Review by David Jeffries