Back in college, there was this guy named Pete who had a house. He was the only one of us youngsters with a house – the kind of dude who had been the man of the house under his mom’s roof for so long, it was only natural that he’d be the first one of us to move out of mom’s crib. The place was a run down shack in the middle of a dirt lot, with five or ten cars always parked outside. The inside was smoky and low lit, with hardly any furniture, but a hand-me down television and whole lot of band equipment. In the center of the living room was a massive couch with five or ten people passing a bong around it, and in the center of that was a coffee table covered with empty beer bottles and dirty ashtrays. And there was music.
The kind of music at Pete’s house was always “jam band” stuff. Whether it was Pete and the (heh) “band” seeing what kind of sounds they could come up with, or simply a record playing in the background, this place was the most chilled out atmosphere imaginable. Phish, The Grateful Dead, and The Beastie Boys (particularly The In Sound From Way Out) were the types of records you’d hear at Pete’s, while white dudes with dreadlocks passed the pipe to black guys with Guns & Roses t-shirts. Everybody knows a guy like Pete.
The Beasties’ latest release, The Mix Up, is a full-length sequel to The In Sound From Way Out; an all instrumental record lacking the usual high-pitched lyrics about Trekkies and T.V. addicts. Instead, the Boys re-team with longtime collaborator Keyboard Money Mark Nishita who helped reinvent their sound on both Check Your Head and Ill Communication. Here, Mark is back on keyboard duty, while Mike D plays drums, Ad Rock on guitars, and MCA on bass, plus Alfredio Ortiz on percussion.
The album finds the crew experimenting with several different styles of music, but keeps a unified sound as it plays throughout. Heavy funk influence is found on songs like “B For My Name”, “14th St. Break”, or later on “Freaky Hijiki” that features a killer drum solo just begging to be sampled by Marley Marl (circa 1989). “Suca Da Tangerina” layers 60′s psychadelica and bossa-nova rhythms with a cornucopia of different instruments, while the trip-hoppy “Gala Event” mellows things out a bit. Nothing here is on the hard edge of their early punk beginnings, nor or they trying to create another “Sabotage”. However the lead single, “Rat Cage” (named after their first record label), is the most rocked out thing on here with it’s edgy bassline, but still fits in nicely with the rest of the LP.
The Beastie Boys have said they plan to re-release this album later with several high profile vocalists, and listening to it you can easily see how an Amy Winehouse or Thom Yorke would fit right in on certain tracks on this record. In this day and age of cross-genre records like Mark Ronson’s Version or Gorillaz’ Demon Days, there might even be a big crossover hit buried in here somewhere. Who knows if this plan will ever come to fruition, but regardless, The Mix-Up plays great by itself as an instrumental album. The kind of music you don’t have to focus intently on, but can just put on in the background to vibe or chill out to. It’s probably playing at Pete’s house right now.
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