Beats International

  • Beats International
  • Let Them Eat Bingo (Go Beat/Elektra) 1990 

After the Housemartins disbanded, bassist Norman Cook returned to his original career as a DJ and became one of England’s most successful remixers; that led him to form Beats International, less a group than a conglomeration of singers, musicians and, most important, samples. The music tracks on Let Them Eat Bingo are constructed almost entirely out of other people’s songs and recordings. The dub-inspired bass line of the Clash’s “Guns of Brixton” is used as the bottom for a cover of the SOS Band’s classic “Just Be Good to Me”; a Billy Bragg up/down electric guitar stroke from “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” is vamped into the basis for “Won’t Talk About It”; and so on. At its best, this is clever stuff that, beyond being enjoyable strictly on its own, provocatively recontextualizes its sources and creates an endlessly fascinating cross-cultural weave — dig how well the African drums fit in with the imitation-Billie Holiday moaning on “Burundi Blues.” At its worst — the tiresome “Babies Making Babies” — it’s just boring and silly. (The CD contains a bonus 12-inch mix of the album’s “For Spacious Lies.”)

[Glenn Kenny]

See also: Fatboy Slim, Housemartins