He hasn't quite found his way back; "Slash Dot Dash" and "Wonderful Night" are soulful, retro-rocking pieces of nonsense that are fun as they spin, forgettable afterwards. Ditto for Bootsy Collins's guest turn on "The Joker," a cute idea that feels so '90s now. And Cook seems no longer challenged by straight electronica: The desultory opener "Don't Let the Man" simply slips funky drumming beneath the hippie anthem "Signs," a trick that was beneath him even back in his Beats International days. The best songs on Palookaville still belong to others, notably John and Beverley Martyn's "Primrose Hill," the 1970 jazz-folk gem underpinning the bittersweet "North West Three." But such moments of beauty and humanity keep Palookaville -- to paraphrase Cook's last album title -- closer to the stars than the gutter.
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