Various Artists ’20 Years Of Being Skint’ (Skint)

Celebrating two decades of the Brighton label that led the Big Beat charge

Seems like there have been a fair few label anniversaries of late, but 20 years of this little south coast seaside imprint will resonate more than most. First things first though, a bit of myth busting. While Skint is home to one Fatboy Slim, Fatboy Slim’s label it is not.

Skint arrived as an offshoot of JC Reid and Tim Jeffery’s Loaded Records with the addition of a third pair of hands, Damian Harris, who brought with him a demo tape by his old pal from their Brighton music shop days. The pal was, of course, Norman Cook and it was his ‘Santa Cruz’ single as Fatboy Slim that carried the catalogue number SKINT 1.

For a 20th anniversary compilation you’d expect that track to feature. Nope. Despite dropping what appears to be quite a clanger, ‘20 Years Of Being Skint’ is a bit of a treat precisely because it doesn’t do what you’d think it would. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out if that’s by accident or design. The CD version comes as two discs – one of old tunes, one of new – with a mix CD thrown in for good measure. There’s also a vinyl release, which is spread across eight sides of the shiny black stuff with a celebratory fanzine and some early Slim tunes (’Sunset 303’ and ‘Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat’) that haven’t been available for a while.

Skint was bought out last year by BMG and looking at the first CD, ‘The Classics’, you can see there’s an eye on the mass market. The Fatboy Slim trio of ‘Praise You’, ‘The Rockafeller Skank’ and ‘Right Here, Right Now’ are obvious scorchers, but Skint is far more than a one-trick Fatboy pony; it’s a delightfully varied box of fun and games and here we get a proper slice of the action.

The old school is quite a list: Indian Ropeman, Cut La Roc, Hardknox, FC Kahuna, X-Press 2, Midfield General, Lo-Fidelity Allstars and Space Raiders are all present and correct. The second CD meanwhile does quite a job of showcasing the new generation, most of whom retain that unmissable Skint left-field appeal. Goose’s Black Grapey ‘Bring It On’, Kidda’s infectious ‘Under The Sun’ singalong and Moguai & Westbam’s does-what-it-says-on-the-tin ‘Original Hardcore’ romp are particular treats.

Which brings me back to the accident or design. One of the oddest inclusions is the Lo-Fidelity Allstars’ rubdown of Pigeonhed’s ‘Battleflag’, a true belter that appears here as what can only be a radio edit, fudging every last mention of the word “motherfucking”, which comes up a dozen times. As a lyric, it’s integral to the song as a whole, so why pick this doctored version? The Lo-Fis weren’t exactly short on tunes that could have made it on here: buy the vinyl and the epic ‘Disco Machine Gun’ features.

Minor gripes aside, ‘20 Years Of Being Skint’ reminds you just how good this label was and still is. You don’t hear Skint mentioned in the same breath as Warp or Ninja, but you should. You forget how very decent X-Press 2 and David Byrne’s ‘Lazy’ is, or that Dave Clarke was signed to the label. Most of all, you forget just how good Norman Cook is, just how smart and joyous and full and rich his productions are. So while Skint isn’t his own label, it is moulded in his image, and this hugely enjoyable package reinforces that by the bucketload.

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