The BPA - I Think We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat
After his return to the pebbles of Brighton Beach last September didn't create anything near the expected media buzz, Norman Cook aka dear Fatboy returns to audio format with his new project. Teaming up with long-time friend and engineer Simon Thornton, Cook has enlisted a menagerie of musical talent to form the Brighton Port Authority, creating an album heavy on guest-spots but not so much on ideas. Of course, the liner notes and press gubbins will have you believing the BPA are a mythical, long-lost supergroup from the heady days of the 70s, and I Think We're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat is their undiscovered - until now - opus. I've gotta say, Jamie T's looking good for a fortysomething. The question is, is Norman's return the classic he's claiming it to be?
Opener He's Frank (Slight Return) and Wailers-sampling Should I Stay or Should I Blow sound like old-skool Fatboy, the only renewed fun in hearing how Iggy Pop and Ashley Beedle take to big beat. The better stuff varies from more experimental tracks like Dirty Sheets, which flits between discordant grunge and trippy ambience, to a clutch of straight electronic pop songs, such as Justin Robertson's atmospheric ballad Island and Thornton's very own Superman. The absolute highlight is Spade, where Martha Wainwright shines with a sexy soulfulness on the sort of souped-up retro strut that Winehouse might have fashioned with Ronson a couple of years back.
Inevitably, a project like this suffers from weak links; Emmy the Great's Seattle is disappointing, her precious delivery jarring with the sonic backdrop and falling just on the wrong side of twee, while newcomer Connan Mockasin's characteristic vocal on Jumps the Fence will be a divider. Even Jamie T's vocal take is underwhelming, leaving it to Dizzee to represent the more youthful contributors on Toe Jam, where he bounces off of the legendary David Byrne. Devoid of the brilliant overload of nudity that was the accompanying video, it still does the job as a party track, Byrne's droll outpourings proving the perfect counterpoint to the rap that comes halfway through.
Ultimately, its this sense of fun over rewriting the rule book that manages to save this modest-sized boat from sinking. You might say Olly Hite's closing cover of So It Goes, white boy soul that is so shiny happy daft you'll be struggling not to smile, is representative of the album as a whole: it's not going to enhance your life but it may satisfy your next shindig. And, after all, isn't this what we've always looked for from Norman Cook? Despite the roll call of guests being from both sides of the Atlantic, a defiantly English charm and good nature shines through and, while some certified fluff can't stop the water from getting in, this glorified mixtape is certainly no shipwreck.