If anything, Norman Cook has established quite the musical curriculum vitae if he ever finds himself with a P45 in hand. Jangly guitar pop with the Housemartins; psychedelic urban dub with Beats International; acid jazz with Freak Power; big beach beats as the eminent Fat Boy Slim; and now, he finds himself presiding as producer under the mythical pseudonym The Brighton Port Authority.
Chapter One: As the legend (press release) goes, The Brighton Port Authority formed circa 1970 as a loose jamming unit of musicians with Cook and fellow Brighton-based producer Simon Thornton at the helm. Chapter Two: With fists full of moonshine and disposable cash, a studio was built, parties were held, a guru going by the name of Baba Ganoush was hired, and reel-to-reel recordings were made with a plethora of genre spanning shipmates/artists boarding for one-off voyages. Chapter Three: The tapes are lost to folklore amongst seaside soirees, a drugs bust, loss of interest, lackadaisical attitudes and overwrought hedonism. Chapter Four: The tapes are found by a Dr of music, digitally remastered and revived into ‘I Think We’re Going To Need A Bigger Boat’. Fin.
True legend? Fable? The fictional genius of a press officer thinking outside the box in order the impress one’s superiors with innovative ideas and climb further up the corporate ladder? Truth be told: it’s a concept album if ever there was one.
Despite the two covers (“He’s Frank (slight return)” by The Monochrome Set and Nick Lowe’s “So It Goes”), this is pretty original stuff from established music mogul; and, on paper, working with a number of indie luminaries has done no harm to his reputation. I mean, Mark Ronson has thus far made a career out of defiling classics and repackaging them to the mass market, so why not test the water.
‘I Think We’re Going To Need a Bigger Boat’ undulates in a pool of middle of the road, mid-tempo electronic orchestrations that never really amaze or depart to greater shores of possibility. This is not to say that it is a bad album; far from it. Cook still has the sense for the modular rhythms and dance hooks that made him famous as Fat Boy Slim, but you can’t help but feel a little robber on the possibilities of what could have been with such a great cast.
Iggy Pop lending his dour tones to The Monochrome Set’s post punk epic cockrock playoff on face value should be a good thing, but instead we’re met with a mono-tonal deviation from potential brilliance with a flaccid riff. “Island” on the other hand just drifts into a petered out electronic space oddity, with Justin Robertson (guest vocals) himself evading gravity with a tired Bowie imitation.
The album flows in a languid manner throughout, occasionally picking up pace but without the full zeal that one might expect from Cook and his influence on big beat culture. The album is saved from wreckage by the likes of “Toe Jam” (featuring David Byrne and Dizzee Rascal) and what is a truly infectious calypso-dub-dance effort; Martha Wainwright’s vocals cascading over the love’s lost reggae beats of “Spade”; and Emmy The Great’ appearance upon the uplifting Seattle, but they appear to be the only survivors swimming strong in a sea of lost souls.
Jamie T’s ‘Panic Prevention’ was proof that he could adeptly handle tripped out calypso beats with good grace, however even he seems a little lost with direction and vigour upon “Local Town”. But it’s the likes of the nonsensical ramblings of “Jumps The Fence” featuring Connan Mockasin and “Superlover” featuring Cagedbaby that really drag this album into nothingness.
With such an esteemed and trusting career thus far, it appears a bit farfetched that someone of Cook’s calibre would concoct such a preposterous back story in order to shift a few records; a record, which on face value, could be something groundbreaking with the artists for hire. But in the light of listening, it appears feasible to sell the semi-illustrious folktale of the Brighton Port Authority and the mystery of the lost tapes to a new listening audience. If anything, the tale only adds to what is rather a tawdry and wet aural experience, posing not the necessity of a bigger boat, but the need for bigger beats aboard a sinking ship.