We’re partying like it’s 1994 here at Uncut this afternoon, because the new Beastie Boys album has arrived. It’s called “The Mix-Up”, and we’re just grooving amiably to track seven, “Off The Grid”.
Actually, “Off The Grid” has just stepped up a grade and now sounds rather hefty, by the standards of this record so far. The good news about “The Mix-Up” is that it seems to be a big improvement on the last Beasties album, 2004’s “To The Five Boroughs”: if you remember, a stiff and uncomfortably worthy attempt to honour the precepts of early hip-hop. The bad news about “The Mix-Up”, though, is that it’s an all-instrumental album.
At their best, Beasties albums have always felt like a slightly crazed mix’n’match: that sense of a band of hip dilettantes who’ll get bored of straight hip-hop after ten minutes and work out their tensions with some bratty hardcore punk, then chill out with a bit of burbling jazz-funk.
“The Mix-Up”, like “To The 5 Boroughs”, is not an eclectic record. Instead, it consists of 12 workouts, often led by Money Mark at the organ, which locate mellow, goatee-stroking grooves that were probably first traversed 30 or 40 years ago by The Meters. They’re jams, I guess, though not quite so sloppy and loose as the ones – in very much the same style – which provided interludes on “Check Your Head” and “Ill Communications”. “Suco De Tangerina” chucks a bit of dub into the mix. One song title – “Freaky Hijiki” – has the obligatory healthfood (in this case a quite nice seaweed) reference.
And they’re extremely pleasant tunes, being the work of three guys of a certain age and their mates, who’ve reached an unexpected level of technical competence, want to kick back in the rehearsal room, and clearly feel they have nothing to prove to anyone any more. There’s an endearing warmth to tracks like “14th St Break”, even when the Beasties are aping that ’70s blaxploitation funk.
I guess I was prepared to be disappointed by this record, and, even though it sounds a bit dated and self-indulgent, it’s a lot more enjoyable than I expected. I’ll try and write something more on it when I’ve listened to it properly. Still, though, should the Beasties really settle for this, when they can do so much more?