Due to an idea from Steve I thought I’d decide to make like a fridge and “keep it fresh.” [Oh. Good. Lord. –Ed] I realize I mostly do general retrospectives on relatively obscure albums from 30-40 years ago that are hopefully interesting but probably aren’t too relevant. For this I make no apologies: it’s the music I like. I just generally dislike modern music; I think most of the originality is gone and I can’t think of a single style of music that hasn’t been done better at some point in time. But I think just this once, on the last week of the year I should make a retrospective of the 2011 albums I have heard and briefly comment on one of them. The retrospective took me about 2 minutes because I have heard a grand total of 3 albums from 2011. I haven’t even heard the Mercury Prize-winning Let England Shake by my beloved PJ Harvey. It’s just there’s so much more music from earlier years that I’m more interested in. But fortunately by keeping the numbers down I’ve made sure that each album I’ve heard from this year has been a banger.
So the 3 albums I heard this year were DJ Shadow’s The Less You Know, The Better, The Go! Team’s Rolling Blackouts and the Beastie Boys’ Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. I thought it was about time I wrote an article on the Beasties and there hasn’t been a better time than now. So here we go. The Beastie Boys are the stuff of legend: every MTV kid knows Fight For Your Right from way back in 1986, anyone who played Guitar Hero probably knows Gratitude and Sabotage and any Futurama fans probably know the song Intergalactic. The Boys are legendary for their longevity, their consistency, their idiosyncrasies and their amazing sense of humour. I mean, Licensed to Ill was the first rap album to hit number one and sold over 10 million copies – this, an album made by white teenage middle class Jews rapping about ridiculously exaggerated scenarios such as sodomising young girls and shooting people in the head. They continued to make ridiculous music videos and insert outrageous lines like “I got more hits than Saduhara Oh” in their songs yet still managed to garner the respect of the (mostly black) rap community for their inventive and engaging music. And in 2011 nothing much has changed; this album proves they still deliver all the goods that are expected of them and more. Firstly, we’ve got lines of ridiculous bravado like “Mike Deeno; the Jewish Brad Pitt,” self-referential lines like “Oh my God just look at me, Grandpa been rappin’ since ’83!” and totally off the wall lines like “Stop complaining about the weather, go shave a sheep and knit yourself a sweater.” The Boys (and they are still boys at heart really) still have that fresh, mischievous attitude about them. Secondly, the music continues to challenge and move in a different direction than their previous albums. The Beastie Boys had been combining sampling, live music and non-hip-hop sounds since their third album Check Your Head, and Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 merely updates and tweaks this sound for 2011. Make Some Noise opens the album with a funky organ and beat, and various other songs like Ok and Say it combine bizarre electronic samples and processed vocals. The Beasties show they can gel with new styles in their fantastic collaboration with Santigold on Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win and show they can hold their own with rapping legend Nas on Too Many Rappers. Songs like Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament are chilled, non-rap instrumentals showing another side of the Boys. In so many ways do the Beastie Boys showcase their diversity, and also their limitations: this sort of combination has characterized previous albums like Check Your Head in 1992 and Hello Nasty in 1998. But come on, give them credit; they’ve been “rappin’ since ‘83” so I think I can forgive them for sticking to what they’re good at. And they are good at it; while this album doesn’t strictly add much to their well-respected oeuvre, it certainly provides 44 minutes of fun. Furthermore, in an era where rap has largely moved away from the funky sound and utilization of samples that it used to be characterized by, it’s nice to hear the Beastie Boys keeping this formula alive.
Words - Adam
[And a very happy, prosperous, sexually active and revolutionary rocking New Year to our readers from the both of us.]