*** THE BEASTIE BOYS,
"TO THE 5 BOROUGHS" (CAPITOL)
While it's disconcerting to see the Beastie Boys sporting gray hair and
serious wrinkles around the edges of those familiar sardonic grins -- it's
hard to believe Adam Yauch (MCA), Mike Diamond (Mike D) and Adam Horovitz (Adrock)
are all pushing 40 --it's reassuring to hear them kickin' it as hard as they
do on their first new offering in six years.
"Old school" is the pronouncement most fans are tossing around, and
indeed, these three middle-age gents are still trading fluid rhymes with
more lustful energy and youthful enthusiasm than most 20-year-olds. Their
wildly imaginative and insanely infectious genre-hopping backing tracks also
remain a creative high point on the hip-hop soundscape, even if they are no
longer quite as fresh as they were on the collective's 1989 masterpiece,
"Paul's Boutique." But these are not exactly the Beasties of yore.
The core is at its best when it's being stupid and carefree. On tracks
such as "Oh Word?" and "All Life Styles," they riff on the joys of livin'
large and revel in the inanities of pop culture, referencing everything from
Ernest Shackleton's failed polar expedition to Mr. Furley, the landlord on
"Three's Company." The sexism of the "Fight for Your Right to Party" days is
thankfully missing -- we can thank their embrace of Buddhist teachings for
something -- but like Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising," "To the 5 Boroughs"
is also partly a (insert groan here) response to 9/11.
When the Beasties are simply professing their love for New York City's
resiliency, as on the anthemic choruses of "An Open Letter to NYC," they hit
their mark. But when they try to offer a more "mature" political critique of
American imperialism and the best they can come up with is "George W.'s
got nothing on we / We got to take the power from he," you once again
feeling like telling the obnoxious louts to shut up and go play in traffic.