Sunday, June 12, 2011

Have your macaroni with some extra hot sauce tonight

Well, they do mention macaroni in the second track "Nonstop Disco Powerpack" so the title is apt in a way......

The Beastie Boys' latest disc "Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2" will provide thrills to fans both new and old.  At the tail end of the 90's, the boys bowed out with their greatest hits package, leaving fans to wonder if they would ever return.  When they did, with 2004's "To The 5 Boroughs" it was a time to celebrate...and a bit of a let-down.  They seemed to be going through the motions, engaging in a self-conscious "return to form" that embraced spare, spartan sampled beats to provide the backdrop, and the lyrics?  Fun, but too often drowned in over-wrought polemics.  Nothing wrong with having those in music, but they work better in well measured amounts.  So great to have them back, but not quite the return most were hoping for.

Enter this year's Hot Sauce Committee Pt. 2 - and enter the REAL return to form.  Right from the distorted synths opening the first track "Make Some Noise" you can tell the boys are out to have a good time and have learned how to relax again.  The entire album plays like an exuberant celebration of life itself, considering Adam Yauch's 2009 battle with cancer, that ended with it going into remission.  Track after track, the old-school, spunky rivalry that is found in the best true hip hop comes out to play.  Nas and the boys do a fine job mic-swapping in the track "Too Many Rappers" - and the gets-stuck-in-your-head-and-won't-leave catchy "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" is one of the best the boys have ever done (thanks in part to nimble verses by Santigold) - surely a track to stand alongside such 90's classics as "Sure Shot", "Sabotage" and "Intergalactic".

Coming towards the latter half of the album many of the songs drop to just over 2 minutes in length, but are no less full on impact for doing so.  "Funky Donkey" wraps a steel-drum-and-clap-drum beat to get your head nodding just in time to drop into the goofy skit "The Larry Routine".  Even the obvious nod to politics "Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament" is handled far more tastefully this time - it turns out to be just an instrumental track, where those who inspect the lyric booklet will see next to this song simply "We can make it happen" - still getting a point across, but not clubbing anyone over the head with it as much this time around.

The Beastie Boys emerged in the 1980's as the last thing anyone would have expected to have success - and here they are today - they are older, wiser, of different minds, but here they give a welcome breath of fresh air, showing that no matter how old you get, it's important to remember how to have fun.  A worthy addition to the collection, and a reason to hope they keep on making music for years to come.

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