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Fatboy Slim
Better Living Through Chemistry
[Slint/Astralwerks]
Rating: 6.8

Repetition. It's a integral part of most of the many segments of techno, and hey, and hey, and hey, when it's done right it can be a great way to build tension, give ya a chance to shake yer money maker, and feel the special throbbing in your head that only 10,000 watts of pounding bass can achieve.

Like the proverbial Fatboy hoarding roasted chickens and corn-nuts, Slim isn't wasting any beats. Taking a handful of samples for each track and looping them around and around one another in a decidedly uncommon dance mix, Better Living Through Chemistry is rife with guitar, funk and R&B samples that come and go. But you're assured that you'll never hear a sample just once. Although Better Living is comparitively down to earth when compared to its Astralwerks stablemates (u-ziq, Photek, Fluke, Chemical Brothers), the closest comparison that I can offer would be Coldcut's less creative numbers on Let Us Play. Rather than trancing us out with space odyssey bloops and bleeps, Better Living prefers to offer us infinite loops of samples mutated far beyond recognition. Admittedly, the repetition can be a little maddening at home, but it's undoubtedly mad dance material. "Give The Po'man A Break" offers us a loop of a sample of someone saying (can you guess?) "Give The Po'man A Break" with every measure, over about four layers of percussive sound from heavy bass throbs to spastic, quick hi-hats and what sounds like an epileptic on a wood block. Periodically, tension builds culminating in a climactic change in aural scenery, lazer zips emerging in a whoosh from the dark to give us a break in the action. Most of the tracks on Better Living follow this general principle, with a few oddities on the mellower side. It's not bad, but it sure ain't in the top 99th percentile of its class.

-James P. Wisdom





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