Why have the Beastie Boys been so incredibly slow in releasing new material? The last 15 years or so they’ve been moving at a pace senior citizens would admire, and the trio aren’t nearly at that age. Perhaps it’s more the good fortune of having a strong legacy and enough money where you don’t exactly need to make another album ever again. Outside of their strong legacy and continued popularity in spite of their long breaks between records, one big indicator of how well they’re doing financially can be determined simply by examining what they’ve done as a group the last several years. Their last technical “album” was 2007’s “The Mix Up”, notable for being completely instrumental. Their last hip hop record was 2004’s “To the Five Boroughs”, a love letter to post-9/11 New York that saw a scaling back on both their compositional style as well as general silliness. Then there was the fate of “Hot Sauce Committee Part One”. Penciled in for a 2009 release, the Beastie Boys chose to first delay it indefinitely and then skip releasing it altogether once MCA came down with cancer. If you need cash or even just want more of it (especially if you have crazy expensive medical bills), you don’t put off releasing an already complete album like that. The point is, the Beastie Boys are pretty well off. They could quit the music business and live comfortably for the rest of their lives. Instead, they’re once again returning, this time with a re-worked version of what was supposed to be “Hot Sauce Committee Part One” and appropriately calling it “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two”.
Perhaps the biggest indicator that the Beastie Boys were back was the music video they released for the new single “Make Some Noise”, which was part of a larger 30 minute film called “Fight For Your Right Revisited”. For even the most casual Beastie Boys fan there was something worthwhile in the video. Not only did it have a lot in common visually with the group’s breakout hit “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, but the new single also boasted an immense list of guest stars such as Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Elijah Wood, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, Ted Danson, John C. Reilly, Rainn Wilson, Will Arnett, Susan Sarandon and Steve Buscemi. It may be the most celebrity-intense video of all time for a song that’s both remarkably badass and also very old school for them. Surprisingly, that’s how a lot of “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” comes across – as a relatively vintage Beastie Boys record. They’ve never been the sort of guys to try and outdo or strongly compete against their hip hop peers, but there’s also been very little reason for them to. The voices of Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA are unique to the point where they’re just about the only group of white rappers people can name. As it stands though, hip hop collectives are always less prominent than individuals, though back in the earliest days of the Beastie Boys there was Wu-Tang and NWA making waves. Even then, despite their frequent use of samples the Beasties still had little trouble picking up instruments on stage and playing them live as need be. It was their connection with rock music that actually earned them their original audience of alternative rockers. The loads of guitar riffs on tracks like “Sabotage” and “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” brought them an edge nobody else was doing (but that Cypress Hill, among others, would later pick up on), and those same concepts remain pretty much theirs and theirs alone today. With the more minimalistic “To the Five Boroughs” and the more sample-heavy “Hello Nasty”, the Beastie Boys moved away from some of the elements that held steadfast those first four records, either out of boredom or the general urge to play around with some new things. Where “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” shakes out in all this is as almost a mixture of the more classic and contemporary sides of the group. There are some live instruments, some sampling, and other bits from obscure old records and such. Nothing new per se, but if you’re already a fan then you should know better than to expect any real surprises.
Even the couple guest stars on the album aren’t necessarily surprising. “Too Many Rappers” features fellow Brooklynite Nas and was intended to be the first single from “Hot Sauce Committee Part One” back in 2009. The track was sent to radio in advance of that unreleased album, and as such a slightly tweaked “New Reactionaries Version” now appears on “Part Two” officially. Santigold plays the hip hop staple role of female singing the vocal hook in the chorus on “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win”, and it’s refreshing for variety’s sake. Santi herself does a fine job, but it’s also somewhat of a thankless role, so the simple charm is just having her on there in the first place. The rest of the record just has the Beastie Boys doing what they do best, and approaching that style in a wide variety of ways to keep the listener engaged. “Lee Majors Come Again” is one of the more standout tracks on the record, most notable because of how it’s more rock and roll/guitar heavy than these guys have been in a long, long time. It’s also a whole lot of fun in that Beastie Boys sort of way. The music of their youth gets an entertaining throwback jam courtesy of “Nonstop Disco Powerpack”, and a more serious/slower moment shows up via “Long Burn the Fire”. So, like the mixture of old styles and new, “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” is a well-rounded and enjoyable affair, provided you already have a predisposed liking of the trio.
They haven’t mentioned it, nor have many suggested it, but “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two” could very well be the final Beastie Boys record. MCA isn’t cancer-free yet, despite reports earlier this year that he was. If his medical problems persist indefinitely, that could be the group’s downfall. But even before the cancer, the glacial pace at which they’ve recorded their last couple albums, plus their collective ages (they’re all in their mid-to-late 40s) could mean they’re getting too old for this shit. The new record doesn’t show their age though, outside of making a lot of the same references in their rhymes as they were more than 10 years ago. They’re still as creatively strong and original as always, and the energy appears there too. It’s also more of a return to form after the relative disappointment that was “To the Five Boroughs”. It may be no “Hello Nasty”, nor does it quite have that “of the moment” gusto their earliest albums like “Paul’s Boutique” and “Ill Communication” had going for them, but it is a gentle reminder that the Beastie Boys have still got it and can flaunt it when they choose to. What’s old can never really be new again, but there’s still a large market for vintage. Some fashions never go out of style, and in that same regard nor do the Beastie Boys.
Click below the jump to stream the entire album!