This month signaled the release of what I would term the Beastie Boys’ “comeback” album. With the exception of “Ch-Check it Out,” To the Five Boroughs managed to fall flat on the ears of even the most devoted Beastie Boys fans. The album was overly-political in nature and seemed to be more of an album rooted in protest than one dedicated to the celebration of music itself. Furthermore, it was just not “fun.” In a BBC review, Stevie Chick reiterates what every Beastie fan already knows: “Beasties albums, at their best, are immense amounts of fun.” Their lyrics are always clever, and often intoxicating; but, one thing the band can never be accused of is taking themselves too seriously. Yet, in To the Five Boroughs, Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA all seemed to be lacking in creative energy and exuberance as their main focus was critiquing our former political leader (which I applaud them for), rather than collaborating to create the innovative and experimental beats that we, as their fans, have come to expect from them. With their first release off of Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (“Make Some Noise”), it is clear that the Beastie Boys have returned with full force.
Up until To the Five Boroughs, it seemed as if every Beastie Boys’ album released showcased even more of their musical abilities and lyrical genius. There is no doubt that Ill Communication was more experimental than Paul’s Boutique, with funk-jazz instrumentals like “Sabrosa” and “Ricky’s Theme.” Similarly, Hello Nasty built upon this experimental energy with acid-lounge songs such as “Picture This” and the mellow rhythms of “I Don’t Know.” In this same manner, it seems that the Boys have returned to the studio with clear heads to create songs like the instrumental “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament” and the almost familiar-sounding song-short “The Larry Routine.”
Their new music video, Make Some Noise, attempts to present this evolution in sound by combining the “new” elements with the “old.” Seth Rogen, Elijah Wood and Danny McBride are dressed in 80s Beastie attire (picture the outfits worn in “Fight for Your Right”) and act as anachronisms against a modern New York City backdrop, filled with current stars such as Rashida Jones and Will Arnett. Throughout the video, numerous windows and glass doors shatter as if to remind us of the nonexistent barriers between old and new Beasties. These are the Beastie Boys we remember and love. Our esteem for them has grown since the late 80s, but they are still the talented, over-the-top musicians from New York who never cease to entertain us with their mischievous antics in each music video.
Since their debut album in 1986, Licensed to Ill, the Beastie Boys have risen to a level of intellectual and musical maturity that allows them to create songs in which they can successfully reference their previous work. Their fans who know them, know them well. While they have been known to sample music from various artists and films before (e.g., “Get it Together”), they have now reached a point where they can easily slip in a reference to their own music. Knowing fans will be familiar with the allusions, the Beasties have two songs on their new album that are solely meant to jog the memories of hard-core Beastie fans: “Too Many Rappers” and “Funky Donkey.” When the Boys rap that there are “too many rappers and no MC” fans are meant to immediately recall their earlier song “3 MCs and 1 DJ.” On the other hand, “Funky Donkey” is obviously a throwback to “Brass Monkey.” Who could forget that funky monkey?
In this, their eighth studio album, the Boys rap that they each have a “new name – Larry” in “The Larry Routine.” Far from “routine,” this song informs its listeners that although these songs are reminiscent of their classic style, they are each fresh and new in their own right. This album is “classic Beasties” with an updated, even more modern sound. In an article from the LA Times, the writer claims, “The Beasties don’t sound as if they’re repeating themselves as much as creating fresh grooves with a sensibility that’s proved enduring.” This is the album To the Five Boroughs should have been. We now have the album in-hand that we’ve been waiting for for so long.