Sunday, May 1, 2011

Hot sauce, baby

Today sees the (physical) release of the new Beastie Boys album, The Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.  Which many have already heard, after the group pre-leaked it themselves, a trend which is becoming quite the big thing.

Before I get to the album, it's worth giving a nod to the title for two reasons.  The first because I think it is a cool album title (and hot sauce is actually vaguely topical in a music-related way).  The second because there is no Part One, well, not a released version anyway.  It was set for release, but after MCA came down with (fortunately treatable) cancer, it got shelved.  Part Two has the same songs in the same order as Part One (less one), and although the Beasties have said this entirely coincidental, this is coming from a group who certainly know how to take the Michael.  As you can witness in the promo video for the album, which has a two-minute short version, and a full thirty-minute extended version, along with an abundance of guests.

It's actually been seven years since the last Beastie Boys' album with vocals, although the single Too Many Rappers was released back in 2009.  I guess I'd describe the Beasties as one of those groups that I have a bit of an on/off relationship with.  I love Check Your Head, Paul's Boutique, most of Ill Communication and some of Hello Nasty.  The rest I'm not so wild about.  Put this together and the result is pretty vague expectations for this record.

Which it certainly exceeds.  For the most part it sounds like they've trued to make a fairly focused hip-hop album.  This hasn't always been the case with the Beasties; as one moves through their discography there's a definite trend towards experimentation which peaks on Hello Nasty.  And in this case it's definitely a good thing, even if there are (entirely predictable) adventures into punk (Lee Majors Come Again, albeit with some major hip-hop digressions) and instrumental funk (Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament).

But opening track Make Some Noise really does seem to set the tenor - a fun, funky track with occasionally clever and occasionally intentionally dodgy rhymes.  There are nods to some of their older tracks like Say It (think Jimmy James), Nonstop Disco Powerpack (think The Move) and Long Burn the Fire (think The Update). 

But then they pull a few new tricks too - Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win features Santigold and bounces along with some world influences.  Here's a Little Something For Ya is a busy, groovy number that basically screams for a drum and bass remix - although DJ Shadow has already had a really good go at mashing it into a million entertaining pieces:

So, first impressions are pretty positive - this one could well be in my top ten come year-end.

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