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Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Beastie Boys, "Paul's Boutique"

The Beastie Boys
"Paul's Boutique"
Capitol (1989)

1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die + 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

As a journalist via degree, I'm a believer in full disclosure. So let it be known that I am not a huge Beastie Boys fan. The (in my opinion, of course) incessant and obnoxious voices of Mike "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "MCA" Yauch and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horowitz drive both myself and my cats up a pole, and their lyrics are only redeeming half the time. We can argue about this later. The point, for now, is that even I must admit that "Paul's Boutique" is worthwhile, if only for its influential technique.

And again, I mean technique in the strictest of instrumental senses. I might as well get the Haterade out of my system early. Even if you do find the Boys' voices aurally pleasing, I find their lyrics half-baked at best. It strikes me as very comparable to watching "Family Guy;" Chock-full of both obvious and obscure pop culture references, but often with its cleverness watered down by fart-jokes. This album proved to be a huge step in sophistication for the Beasties (see next paragraph), just not lyrically. The same themes of sexing up the local women and braggadocio run rampant here. Mixed in of course, are trivia lines like "I got more hits than Sadaharu Oh," which are hilarious if your mind works fast enough to process them.

So to the good stuff: the beats. During the '80s, most hip-hop beats were sampled from previously released songs (like the Boys' references, both obvious and obscure) and/or simple 808 drum fill. Being the pop culture freaks they are, the Beastie Boys just had too many songs/recordings they wanted to incorporate. Therefore, it was a godsend when they met Los Angeles production duo The Dust Brothers, who had already prepared various mixtapes blending dozens of artists into off-the-wall instrumentals.

This recording session occurred on the eve of major lawsuits within the music industry that would prevent free-use of samples from there on out. Thankfully the Boys got "Boutique" out in time and avoided litigation from at least 105 samples tracks (The Beatles made moves to sue the group, which Mike D described as "what's cooler than getting sued by The Beatles?") The samples are stylistically miles apart from each other as well. Take "Egg Man" for example, which borrows from the "Jaws" and "Psycho" themes, as well as Public Enemy's "Bring The Noise."

Granted, these recordings were roughly assembled. It's probably to be expected, considering the number of tracks debated and added for each individual song. And in 1989, the technology that makes a Kanye West track seamless wasn't nearly as simple. There are five separate drum parts used throughout "Shake Your Rump," and it's not hard to find the gaps between them.

This sort of dense sampling is less popular on the radio today (as it was then) but many underground artists borrow from "Paul's Boutique" when they cram a million ideas into a four-minute track. Just look at anything from Definitive Jux, the indie label from the Beastie Boys' beloved Brooklyn. This album is still the same ol' Beastie Boys from "Licensed to Ill," but now they've got better beats. I would still recommend their most recent release, "The Hot Sauce Committee Part Two" over anything else in their repertoire.

INTERESTING FACT: "Paul's Boutique" was named after a local Brooklyn haberdashery, which was in turn named after a very sought-after line of British purses (the demand is an effect of the brand not shipping outside of the U.K.)

Egg Man by Beastie Boys on Grooveshark

1 comment:

  1. Paul's Boutique easily makes it on my top 50 list of favorite albums of all time. The humor can be sophomoric at times, but when you make a killer song like "The Sounds of Science," I can overlook that. The ability for these guys to seamlessly rap together is also really impressive; I love how they finish each other's lines. I'll have to respectfully disagree with you on on the enjoyment scale, but I do appreciate that you fairly evaluated the powerful influence this one had.