The best pop music makes itself a soundtrack to your life. You may choose an album but a single chooses you. It leaps out from the bassbins of a club or the PA of a shop, from the speakers of a beach party or a barbeque, from the radio or the TV, and it wiggles its way into your life for a few months. And then for years afterwards it's an indelible part of your memories, a glittering, four-minute time capsule. It never really grows old.

That's what this album is all about. This isn't the place to document all of Fatboy Slims' chart positions, record sales, awards, remixes, collaborations, extracurricular activities and epic DJ sets to crowds in the hundreds of thousands - it's not a job application. No, this is the place to celebrate some of the most life-affirming pop music of the last 10 years.

Fatboy Slim wasn't really meant to go this far. When I first met Norman Cook in his adopted hometown of Brighton a decade ago his day job was captaining the acid-funk band Freak Power. Fatboy Slim was just another not-so-secret alias, the latest in such a long line that when Going Out Of My Head reached number 57 in May 1997 the Guinness Book of Records recognised Norman for achieving UK Top 75 hits in more different incarnations (seven) than anybody else. What united these multiple guises was an ear for the cheeky sample and an unerring instinct for the unforgettable hook. But somehow, more by accident than design, Fatboy Slim became bigger than them all.

Fatboy Slim made Norman Cook a funny kind of pop star, one who makes world-beating records in a tiny home studio with nothing more than a few machines, an enviable record collection and one exceptionally talented accomplice, Simon Thornton. One, also, who channels his personality through intermediaries, some flesh-and-blood and some recruited via his voracious sampler: departed icons like Jim Morrison '(Sunset (Bird Of Prey)', unjustly neglected nearly-weres like Camille Yarbrough (Praise You) and close friends like Bootsy Collins (The Joker). They're all brought together by Norman's vision of what pop is and what it can do.

What a song like The Rockafeller Skank is saying is: Look it's all the same. This 1960s surf guitar, this rapper's flamboyant boast, these stuttering juggernaut drums it's all just great pop music, it's all there for the taking and it's for everyone, and because it's for everyone you barely notice how radical it is, how global hit records aren't traditionally meant to slooooow down and sp-sp-sp-sp-speed up again.

There's something of that quality - welcoming but challenging, familiar but brand spanking new in all of the songs here. There's soul giant Edwin Starr swept up in a Brazilian carnival and a thunderstorm of dirty, tweaking acid on Everybody Loves A Carnival. There's obscure prog-rockers Colosseum hurtling full-tilt into hip-house don Doug Lazy on Ya Mama. There's Macy Gray communing with the late Bill Withers on the consoling gospel of Demons. There's the weepy psychedelia of The James Gang transformed into a battle cry on Right Here Right Now, a track so rousing that the Labour party tried to pinch it as their 2005 election theme (and promptly got told where to stick it). The best of the videos found equally exhilirating new modes of expression: Spike Jonze and his klutzy community dance group popping their limbs to Praise You in an LA shopping mall, Christopher Walken mocking gravity in a deserted hotel for Weapon Of Choice.

You've also got two songs that wouldn't be half as well-loved without Norman's remix magic: Cornershop's quirky ode to a Bollywood star, Brimful Of Asha, beefed up, speeded up and lifted up to the top of the charts, and Groove Armada's I See You Baby ("shaking that ass"), now with 100% more ass-shaking.

Norman Cook can't sing and he doesn't write lyrics but you can still hear his voice at every stage of this album. As a kid in Reigate, Surrey, he was raised to believe in tolerance and understanding. As one of the Housemartins in the 1980s, he railed against the pinched, self-serving meanness of Margaret Thatcher's government. As Fatboy Slim, he creates heartfelt good-time music that reflects the mindset of its maker: humane, generous, optimistic and never too serious except about what really matters.

I once asked Norman why he was obsessed with 1960s California, an enduring enthusiasm that's writ large on Sunset (Bird Of Prey) and Don't Let The Man Get You Down: why, in other words, he had a punk's DIY sensibility but a hippie's heart. He replied: Punk was just anti-everything and that was what I grew up with. So I found a similar counter-culture that was very positive. I believe in loyalty and love and stuff like that. Try not go to the dark places and don't let the man get you down.

If this collection of joyously idiosyncratic pop songs, spanning four albums and 10 years, has a unifying philosophy, it's that. And if it has a motto, it could do worse than borrow one from 1960s record label Immediate: 'Happy to be a part of the industry of human happiness.'


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