They use the mic like Picasso used paint. They've got more stories than JD's got Salinger. And, oh yes, they like their sugar with coffee and cream....
They use the mic like Picasso used paint. They’ve got more stories than JD’s got Salinger. And, oh yes, they like their sugar with coffee and cream. Just in time for the millennium, the Beasties plant their flag on 15 fast-fading years of phat beats and whiny Dr Seuss raps, a goofball musical journey from hormonally challenged porno-punk beerboys to Buddhist-leaning leisurewear tycoons and alternative royal family of American cool.
This mammoth retrospective spans 42 hits, misses, rarities and new material. Conventional chronology is studiously avoided, but we can trace the band’s career arc by the deepening pitch of their voices and their gradual shift from sincerely cheesy thrash-punk to ironically cheesy electro-funk.
But seasoned Beastie fans might find some omissions irksome. Their 1986 slam-punk Def Jam debut ‘Licensed To Ill’ is rightly represented by all-time dumb-ass semi-ironic New Lad anthem ‘Fight For Your Right’, the rock-the-bells jumbo riffola of b and the block-rocking AC/DC stomper ‘She’s On It’. But what happened to fratboy rockpig landmarks ‘No Sleep Till Brooklyn’ and ‘Time To Get Ill’?
Moving to Capitol in 1989, the trio’s sophomore reinvention ‘Paul’s Boutique’ LP blew away their juve-rock image with a superfly Dust Brothers production. The Beasties have never sounded as slick, sexy and dynamic as on the high-voltage riot of disco-pimp kitsch and Flat Eric bass that is ‘Shake Your Rump’, the cowbell-chiming strut ‘Hey Ladies’ or the Bible-quoting blaxploitation funkerama ‘Shadrach’. But again, a mere three tracks seem tokenistic – where, for instance, is the wiseguy nasal rap which gives this compilation its name?
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CD: Hello Nasty
CD: The In Sound From Way Out
CD: Mix Master Mike – Anti-Theft Device
CD: Money Mark – Push The Button – 2/5/1998
CD: Money Mark – Third Version EP – 30/3/1996
Live: Beastie Boys – Glasgow SECC – 12/5/1999
Click for the gig guide
If ‘Paul’s Boutique’ was ahead of its time, 1992’s ‘Check Your Head’ was positively underground. Here the Beasties reverted to all-live garage-rock mode with super-heavy fuzzola like ‘Gratitude’ or ‘Jimmy James’, yet these born-again brats were becoming closet musos – a transformation which paid off handsomely with1994’s mega-comeback ‘Ill Communication’. It reversed their flagging fortunes with monster retro-funk turbo-punk screamathons like ‘Sure Shot’, ‘Sabrosa’ and the unassailable ‘Sabotage’.
Thus it was as the official Coolest Band In The World that the Beasties returned in 1998 with ‘Hello Nasty’, adding old-skool electro and sci-fi kitsch to their sonic arsenal with ‘Intergalactic’ and ‘Body Movin” (here included in its chunky Fatboy Slim overhaul). Behind the boiler-suited robotics, though, the limitations of the trio’s unchanging “yes-yes-y’all” shouty-raps and worryingly ‘authentic’ jazzbo leanings show through.
Which is why the extra tracks and rarities scattered across this collection are so fascinating. The best, like the streamlined phased-funk single ‘Alive’ or the new wave guitar shapes of ‘I Want Some’, throw up alternative Beastie futures which never happened. The worst, especially the half-dozen kiddythrash ejaculations, are self-indulgent juvenilia. There are one-joke pisstakes, including a tuneless Elton John cover, plus disturbingly funny sketches like the pensioner-shagging R&B serenade ‘Boomin’ Granny’.
After two hours of unrelenting goofiness you may wonder if the Beasties ‘mean’ anything beyond one long high-school in-joke. You might even dismiss them as musically conservative elder statesmen. But just look at the risible metal careerists and witless hip-hop egoists who dominate American rock and be thankful that these art-driven, cool-redefining, politically sussed rulers of alternative rap’n’roll are keeping Picasso and Dr Seuss in the house.