Is this what the late 90’s sounded like? Just an endless playlist of Jock Jams on FM radio?
I kicked off the morning with a spin of Exit Planet Dust following the announcement that The Chemical Brothers (“Block Rockin’ Beats”) will be re-issuing their entire discography on vinyl. Good for them – it’s well deserved. Exit Planet Dust alone is a great record, predating the over-commercialized mumbo-jumbo that dragged the genre down to cater to… well, I’m not totally sure what. Jock Jams, I guess? Big Beat (capitalization theirs - they can keep it) was inescapable for a while there, presumably because people liked it. Is it time for a renaissance?
After listening to The Prodigy (“Firestarter”), Crystal Method (“Busy Child”), Fatboy Slim (“Right Here, Right Now”) – entire damn albums no less – I can say the answer is no. It’s a major, major no. Hell, I don’t know how we were so wrong 20 years ago. Fat of the Land (“Smack my Bitch Up” – see how quickly these add up) sold millions of copies AND was a uniform critical success. I will Venmo you $5 if you can sit through it uninterrupted in 2016. That’s not Prodigy’s fault as much as the facts of life – the more instrumental the album, the less likely it is to age gracefully.
So Big Beat is dead, as EDM will be in 5-10 years, and whatever replacing EDM will be in 20. It left us one legacy on its way out, though: “Praise You,” by Fatboy Slim. Bonus points for the music video, shot by Spike Jonze on like a Hi8 tape featuring the improv break stylings of, well, Spike Jonze(1). It’s one of those “too perfect” things that cynics everywhere wait around for to tear limb from limb, but what’s to hate here, exactly?
Musically all the bad shit about Big Beat and EDM is absent – the overwrought synths, the breakbeats that are always turned to 11, the bass that can never just be a god damn bass. Fatboy Slim makes the recipe seem so simple, just put this giant-ass, life-affirming gospel piano right in the middle of the damn track, toss in some bongos, a favorable key and let the high hat ride out into the sunset. Toss in “praise you” and some related material, et cetera et cetera, and that’s it: you’re done. Why can no one else do this?
Of course no one can do what Spike Jonze does - basically ever -
so you’ll just have to watch that part for yourself. Enjoy.
notsomethingstructural (aka @nss_ds) is an amateur listicle purveyor and the author of “The 25 Best Hip Hop Albums of All Time”. He co-authored the record-setting #WorstSongBracket and is terrible at Twitter.
(1)Unlike Big Beat, god I hope Spike Jonze never dies