After a credible but ultimately goofy debut the Beastie Boys had established themselves already as one of the most important rap outfits going.
When the Beasties got round to releasing their 2nd, and arguably most essential LP in 1989 few expected the work of genius that is Paul’s Boutique.
I bought the LP on day of release and it was practically glued to my turntable for the summer of 1989. With an almost jazz style sleeve the album was so far ahead of it’s time it still sounds fresh now. Even now listening to it you hear and pick up on references you have never noticed before. It’s an incredible body of work.
Kicking off with To All The Girls the sound is blissed-out and immediately more mature than the fare on Licensed To Ill.
Snowballing into Shake Your Rump the characters are back. The sound is rolling and bold. The funk bass is near psychadelia from the off. the production is a world away from the crisp clear Rick Rubin sound of their debut.
Johnny Ryall tells the tale of a homeless guy that the band pay lyrical respect too. This ode to “the leader of the homeless” sees fast lyrical interjection from Ad Rock, Mike D and MCA. The band steal and interupt mid-sentance. Hip Hop has never sounded like this. Sneaky layered samples see the band even sample themselves – twice. Pink Floyd, DJ Grand Wizard Theodore and Kurtis Blow are hidden amongst samples so densely layered they will pass most ears by unnoticed.
Curtis Mayfield’s – Superfly sets a funky tone for Eggman. A mischievous track essentially about chucking eggs at people. Elvis Costello, Jaws, The Commodores and Bernard Hermanns infamous Psycho shower scene amongst a host of other frantic samples all play out. It all blends so well that it still manages to sound organic. A cheeky nod to their own Egg Raid On Mojo is hinted at lyrically. The sample of Public Enemy, still very new at the time 2 tracks show an appreciative nod and somehow affirms rap as a growing art.
The unlikely sample of The Eagles – Those Shoes sets the pace for High Plains Drifter. The lyrics flow between the 3 MC’s. The imagery is trippy and mellow. The sample of The Ramones – Suzy Is A Headbanger at the end of the track is near genuis.
The Sound Of Science again has a slow pace. No less than 4 Beatles samples are hidden in this gem. Half way through the track changes to a much faster, funky pace. The loop of The Beatles took me about a decade to spot. Namechecking Robotron the band are on form.
The lyrical interjection stops on 3 Minute Rule. Kicking off with a ping pong sample that continues all the way through the 3 MC’s do not interupt each other for probably the first time. With a third of the track each it’s still a hard choice to pick your favourite third of this classic.
Hey Ladies was the first single released from Paul’s Boutique. The album was an initial commercial disaster for Capitol (EMI). The sound is upbeat and funky. The mood is – party. This, however, is not the frat partying displayed on Licensed To Ill. The sound is assured, confident and dragging 70’s funk up too the then fresh late 80’s.
5 Piece Chicken Dinner is a ditty. A bluegrass 30 second intro to the fantastic Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun. Mountain, Pink Floyd, and The Incredible Bongo Band are sampled to near perfection to result in a doom-laden dusty metal sound that has to be heard to be believed. Die Hard references ahoy the track packs a punch and sounds as fresh in 2011 as it did in 1989.
Car Thief sounds as narcotically scorched as you can get. The track sounds like a very hot day and is arguably the funkiest track on the LP.
What Comes Around has a subtle loop of Led Zeppelin’s Moby Dick and the band rap all over it linking so well you’d be forgiven that the three are one.
Shadrach kicks of with another scorching funky sample. ACDC nods and the lyrics appear to get all biblical on us. It’s an incredible piece of work. I love when Ad Rock yells “Yauch” (MCA’s other nickname) and MCA picks up the lyric straight away.
Ask For Janice is a radio add for the store Paul’s Boutique. At under 30 seconds it serves as the intro for the wig-out jam that is the hugely ambitious B-Boy Bouillabasisse. The track is essentially 9 tracks in one crazy jam. 59 Chrystie Street serves as a heavily fried opener. The band sound all over the place. It’s a glorious mess. Get On The Mic picks up the pace. Beatboxing is showcased and the band sound like they truly do not care at all. Stop That Train sees the funk and drug references flow – it’s a hot jam – that place where I always get my toast warm. A Year And A Day is very dusty. It’s dense. The funk is tangible. The mix of styles demands respect. Hello Brooklyn sees a booming bass that will rattle any speaker. The lyric about dropping out hits hard. The band sound at their most defiant. Dropping Names sees a Steven King reference from IT. Lay It On Me gets spacey and funky and the three melt together. Mike On The Mic see Mike D at the helm to a minimal backbeat. A.W.O.L. backtracks and a live show is sampled. I’ve been lucky enough to see the Beastie Boys play AWOL on their Check Your Head tour and the crowd went nuts.
The album closes with an uncredited return to To All The Girls that kicked off this sublime LP. In a way it suggests you stick it back on from the start and invariably that’s what I did back in 1989 when the LP finished i’d just flip it back and start all over again.
I think Paul’s Boutique is the best Beastie Boys album although all of their studio albums are essential listening. I’m not a big fan of Hello Nasty but on consideration i’ve put this down to working in a record shop for 7 years and seeing the industry work that album it killed the enjoyment of it for me. I’m really looking forward to the new album and will physically go and buy it. They’re a great band – the news on MCA’s illness has gone a bit quiet but I truly hope that works out well too. Checkout Paul’s Boutique. For me it’s one of the best 20 albums ever. It takes hip hop into unchartered territory and has not been bettered in this genre…