By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Photo by Michael Lavine
FATBOY SLIMHalfway Between the Gutter and the Stars (Skint/Astralwerks)
He’s come a long way, baby. Once pop music’s funk soul brother, Fatboy Slim now sheds his image as dance music’s crossover star, reinventing himself as a DJ with more than just e-friendly tracks in his record crate. Using his soulful 1998 smash “Praise You” as a blueprint, Fatboy crafts his new aural architecture by relaxing his tightly packed funk coils in favor of a more languid vibe. You’d think Fatboy found God or something — he’s downright spiritual at times on Halfway, working the mixing board like a preacher working the pulpit. Rather than beat the devil out of you with his twisting breakbeats, this time around he’s ministering with a gentler touch.
Beginning with the piano-blessed invocation of “Talking Bout My Baby” and ending on the gentle pulses of a house track for the extended sermon “Song for Shelter,” Fatboy mostly abandons his big-beat bounce for a less assaultive approach. Stretching spines with some gummy funk, he taps Macy Gray for her sensual, throaty croons on the saucy “Love Life”; calls beyond the grave to resurrect Jim Morrison’s drifting vocals into the trance textures of “Sunset (Bird of Prey)”; and deploys Bootsy Collins’ elastic ax on the whimsical “Weapon of Choice.” But in case you’re still on the come-up and not the cool-down, Fatboy sticks to his old tricks for tracks like “Ya Mama” and “Retox” — all back-breaking breakbeats and looping party anthems.
The final effect is more ambitious yet less satisfying — Slim’s evangelizing on “Drop the Hate” feels more affected than earnest, and his second team-up with Gray on “Demons” won’t please fans of either artist. Still, if Halfway is an analogy for a choice between the devil’s sinful pleasures and the Holy Ghost’s blissful rapture, Fatboy Slim seems more than capable of unleashing both spirits on you.
LAURIE ANDERSON Talk Normal: The Laurie Anderson Anthology (Rhino)
If you’ve always wanted a recording of Laurie Anderson’s storied performance Duets— where she fitted her violin bow with a strip of magnetic tape and “played” along with a record — your search must continue. This recently released compilation is apparently meant to be a marketable affair — like an attempt to bring the household name into the household. The letdown is that you’ll find nothing rare on either disc, no outtakes or demos, and nothing not from the Warner Bros. catalog. For the one and only Laurie Anderson — with her glorious voice-bends, machine posturing and automaton/Mom lullaby lilt to hackneyed stories frequently about falling — her own self-produced anthology leaves much to be sought after either online or in dusty record stores.
There’s no denying the crafty smarts that made Anderson a household name. “From the Air”’s Simon Says routine still frightens while it snickers: “This is your captain/we are about to attempt a crash landing . . . captain says put your head on your knees . . . put your head in your hands/captain says put your hands on your head/put your hands on your hips/hee hee hee . . .” Ditto for the easy, violin-based “Born, Never Asked” and its long-legged-bird-walking twang set to handclaps. The collection winds from “The Night Flight From Houston,” an anecdote that reveals itself and ends just as fast, to “Coolsville,” where Anderson wanders from her signature matter-of-fact singing tone to an Elizabeth Fraser– esque vocalise. When the second disc hits a wall called 1995, you may go searching through the little cardboard box for more music, but, alas, you’ll come up with none. And you’ll ask, “Now, where am I ever gonna find the 1977 7-inch ‘It’s Not the Bullet That Kills You — It’s the Hole’?”
Talk Normal is rounded and even, like a Laurie Anderson 101 class syllabus: a rough outline of a master body of work marked not by hits or singles but by folkloric storytelling, superdry comedic timing and those oh-so-un-warm-and-fuzzy structuralist themes that changed us the first time they came into our homes over amplifiers and headsets. (Wendy Gilmartin)
LINKIN PARK Hybrid Theory (Warner Bros.)
Like their kindred spirits 311 and Incubus, newcomers Linkin Park simultaneously provide a soundtrack to skating the half-pipe and passing the peace pipe. Sandwiched among their raging slabs of guitar are meandering, meditative passages that owe more to the stash box than the fuzz box.
These SoCal boys are in the habit of setting up songs with tiny sonic events, so when the hammer bludgeons down it’s all the more punishing (check the Depeche Mode–ish intro to “Crawling”), and throughout, their use of loops and samples adds depth of field to an already impressive display of dynamics. But the set’s trump card is vocalist Chester Bennington, who’s just a great rock singer, period. He’d have found a home in any era of rock & roll, and perfectly offsets the rhythmic chitchat of MC Mike Shinoda. Bennington’s throaty performance on the chorus of “Pushing Me Away” borders on the Dio in its melodramatic power and sustain.