Vinyl Vlog 433

Vinyl Vlog 433

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Thursday, 06 August 2020
COLUMN

Beastie Boys
Paul’s Boutique

photo: turntablelab.com

I don’t know if the Beastie Boys get too much credit or not enough. One thing’s for sure, they’re not spoken about too much among the current mainstream rapper greats. Of course, that’s kind of a misnomer: mainstream rap isn’t really great. And as a Beastie Boys fan, that suits me just fine.

Sophomore albums really define a band, don’t they? That first album can make as big an impact as you want, but if you’re a band that kept at it, that second album will be forever scrutinized when people talk about your artistic integrity. I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m just calling it like it is. I don’t like it, but I’ll admit it’s incredibly informative to judge a band by their second album.

The Beastie Boys’ Paul Boutique is so good, it’s a relief to talk about. Let’s be honest, License to Ill was a giant hit, but is also kind of sucks. It’s snotty, terribly produced, and misinformed. On that album, the Beastie Boys were more interested in the grandeur of the genre than doing anything with it. These were hardcore boys from New York who were so enamored with a brand new sound that they set out immediately to copy it. And if they’re to be believed (I’m getting this from their Beastie Boys Book), they quickly grew tired of that shtick and focused on how to push rap music forward. The result, to everyone’s surprise, was Paul’s Boutique. And, I’ll happily argue that they have better albums, but the most importance lies here.

Paul’s Boutique sounds different right off the bat. Instead of easy, predictable music, the tracks on this album are complex, full of samples, and are an exploration of the genre. Also, the Dust Brother are clearly a better fit for the boys than Rick Rubin, who, I don’t know, doesn’t have a vision? Can anyone argue with how much better High Plains Drifter or To All the Ladies sounds than anything on License to Ill? Or how Three Minute Rule and looking Down the Barrell of a Gun are still interesting tracks 30 years later? Sure, some of the rapping sounds corny, but it’s still some of the best the genre had to offer around that time. Paul’s Boutique was the about-face that made the Beastie Boys more than one-hit wonders.

The Beasties’ catalog has been going through a much-needed rerelease on vinyl and Paul’s Boutique is where the facelift is most evident. That beautiful wrap-around cover can only be appreciated on the gatefold vinyl and don’t even think about playing these songs as MP3s. Have some respect.

Paul’s Boutique is an undeniable classic and a testament of how a course-correction can lead to great things.

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