If you are at all like me–a long-time devoted fan of the Beastie Boys and their groundbreaking career–then there is a good chance that you have been a little disappointed with the group’s output since the release of Hello Nasty. It’s not that Hello Nasty is a bad album, it’s actually quite eclectic and experimental (which is saying something for these guys), it’s just that it might have moved a little too far away from the Beastie Boys we grew up with and had grown accustomed to with Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head, and Ill Communication. Their subsequent output, To the 5 Boroughs & The Mix-Up, were hit-or-miss at best. The band definitely seemed to be losing some creative steam as we reluctantly began to wonder, “is the best Beastie Boys music behind us?”
To say that Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is a return-to-form or a comeback album might be overstating its value. But once you hear the first Clavinet notes and beat of “Make Some Noise” you can’t help but nod your head, smile, and think, “yea, this is what it’s all about. This is the Beastie’s Boys I know and love.” HSC2 is definitely the bands best overall album since Ill Communication.
The Beastie’s have always been hipster darlings and musical (and cultural) trend setters. In short, from 1986-1999, there was no cooler band in the world. Funky, 70’s-instrumentals? Check. Creative and unique sounds? Check. Witty, pop culture referencing rhymes? Check. Incredible studio production? Check. And of course, great songs: Check your head! HSC2 mashes up the Beastie Boys 90’s output with just enough new school bleeps and blips to keep the album sounding fresh and current while still maintaining that, dare I say, classic Beastie Boys style till the break of dawn. If you don’t nod your head during “Nonstop Disco Powerpack” then just hit the stop button now.
The first half of the album flows as perfectly as Paul’s Boutique or Check Your Head, hitting you with a powerful 7-song sequence that peaks with the dance hall-influenced “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.” The Beastie Boys are still one of the few bands able to pull off a plethora of sounds, styles, and music genres without making it sound disingenuous (dub? hip hop? hardcore? Ok!). The track “Say It” feels like it would’ve fit perfectly on Check Your Head, while “Ok” fuses some recently re-popularized analog synth sounds with an electro pop feel (it’s the one song I feel adds something “new” to the Beastie’s bouillabaisse of beats). The second half of the album remains consistent and upbeat, but looses a little bit of flair and fails to break any new ground until we come across the Thievery Corporation-esque “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament,” one of the Beastie’s finest instrumentals to date. With its hypnotic beat and sparse instrumentation, it’s one of those songs you look forward to hearing in the sequence of the album.
It is easy to listen to a lot of today’s music and hear just how influential the Beastie Boys were in their heyday. While still mostly remembered for License to Ill, “So Whatcha Want,” or the “Sabotage” video, some tend to forget how the Beasties paved the way for such artists as Beck, The Roots, Rage Against The Machine, and Eminem. Long before sampling, looping, “rap rock,” and electronica made its way into the mainstream, the Beastie’s were the trailblazer’s setting the tones (both figuratively and literally). I don’t think any fans are expecting them to put out their “best album ever” at this juncture of their career, but it’s still refreshing to know that they have something left in their collective creative tanks.