Like The KLF before him, Norman Cook knows the value of a good gimmick, and his work as Fatboy Slim can be gleefully stupid, eagerly using borrowed hooks to get to the top of the charts at almost any cost. The former Housemartins bassist's strategy often pays off because he's smart enough to keep his mouth shut: Unlike Madonna, whose vapid lyrical contributions make Music all the more mindless, he speaks through any number of ridiculous vocal snippets, repeated past the point of annoyance and into the realm of rhythm. Cook understands that even phrases as obnoxious as "they just strut, what the fuck," lame Jim Morrison poetry, and "push the tempo" will eventually blend into the background, just more samples suspended in the music. Fatboy Slim's third album, Halfway Between The Gutter And The Stars, follows the monster success of You've Come A Long Way, Baby, whose "Rockafeller Skank" and "Praise You" made Cook a household name, if not a familiar face. Little on Halfway is as immediately gratifying, or even as immediate, as its predecessor's hits, but that's not to say that any of these 11 new songs might not meet the same fate. "Ya Mama" and the Macy Gray-led "Demons" and "Love Life" sound particularly suited for heavy rotation. But "Star 69," "Retox," and "Song For Shelter" seem to have been tooled especially for the dance floor, distilled to their disco beats almost to the point of innocuous anonymity. The Fatboy Slim assembly-line music machine is in full effect, and anyone looking for substance needn't bother. But to call this collection of sweet nothings half-assed would imply that there was much going on to begin with: The disc is business as usual, a big load of disposable fun and funk that's fluffier than cotton candy and just as weighty.