I like to joke that I’m a music snob by trade, and that it’s working for me. It’s easy to slip into cynical when you’re flooded with hundreds of CDs a year in your mailbox. I actually live in slight fear of my mailbox. There are so many CDs in there. And they keep coming! It reminds me of that scene in the movie Fantasia where Mickey Mouse chops up a magic broom to keep it from taking over, and all the little pieces of broom keep growing and multiplying out of control.
The other part of the mailbox that is intimidating is that there are so few CDs that I’ll choose to play. I only have 4 hours each week to play (literally) the best music in the whole world. Unfortunately, few CDs mailed to me fit in that category. But on the other hand, there is a personal element. No matter how many CDs I get I can’t forget that each one is someone’s dream, and is sacred in the way that music is to all of us.
It would be easy to be cynical and dismissive, but that’s not how I feel. Not at all. Also, it would be easy to slip into the technical details of music: innovation, instrumentation, chops, style, whether the rhythm is on. One of my pet peeves with bands these days is that the whole band tends to follow the singer’s rhythm, when they should be locked into the drummer. In my opinion, if your drummer cannot command the band, you need to get him on it or kick him out. My other pet peeves are: bad presentation (there should be no Sharpie marker involved unless you know me personally), singers who can’t sing or are buried in the mix “indie” style (if you couldn’t play guitar they wouldn’t let you in the band, so why is it okay when you can’t hold a tune??).
Every day I remind myself not to get caught up in the details. Music is about feeling. And no matter how much you know about music, it’s important not to forget that music is supposed to be fun.
Enter Fatboy Slim A.K.A. Norman Cooke, a British DJ who started out playing at big parties (he also had a stint as bassist for the band the Housemartins). Being a live DJ gives you a direct line to the listener. You know when a song bombs because everyone immediately clears the dance floor. After years at dancefloor Norman started putting out albums. Most of them had one or two incredible songs, and usually those songs were a bit long for airplay. But in 2007 my man put out this incredible collection of radio edits of his best songs and one new song. “Greatest Hits, Why Try Harder?” is a fantastic booty-shakin’ party album. The songs are so dynamic that they are also literally house-shakin’. In fact, when I put on this opening track at a house party, my roommate said shakily “Is the house going to lift off into outer space now?” Sweet.
Fatboy Slim gets a lot of flack from the electronic music, dance and hip-hop communities for not being serious enough. Far as I’m concerned, that’s a strength. Only the boldly ridiculous know that silly is best.
This record, in my opinion, makes up in soul for any question of musical integrity. And if you’re looking for the deep point in all this enjoyment, there’s even a new song. “That Old Pair of Jeans” is about love, self-determination and moving on.
Join DJ Michele Myers for Nite Life every Friday at 9pm on KEXP. Every week she does this album feature at midnight. She also produces KEXP Documentaries and can be heard in New York for KEXP on 91.5 FM Thursday mornings from 6-9am. Michele is a Libra, likes sailing, sushi and men who aren’t afraid to cry.