Aside from breathing new life into a nearly 25 year old meme with the celebrity cameo-heavy Fight For Your Right Revisited short film, it’s no wonder that the campaign behind the Beastie Boys‘ Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 has been so tightly focused on building a sense of nostalgia around the group. For fans who have been longing for an old-school revival, Hot Sauce should suffice; maintaining a modern appearance, the album is largely a single continuous glance to the past. But for all the surrounding build-up in preparation of the release it’s not difficult to get caught up in the sheer excitement of having something new from a group of such familiar icons and overlook its immediate flaws.
Not unlike practically every other Beastie Boys album, Hot Sauce is home to a lengthy track list (16 tracks deep). Yet unlike some of the works which it reflects, it’s somewhat crippled by its own ambitiousness. Following the unusually twisted flow of the slow, sub-rattling “Tadlock’s Glasses,” the Beasties nail it with the powerful yet wisely balanced “Lee Majors Come Again” – which not unlike “Too Many Rappers,” has been floating around in various forms or a couple of years. In the wake of the punk-inspired “Majors” however, Hot Sauce becomes inadvertently capsized. The funkiness of instrumental “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament” and warped electronics of the “muh muh muh muh muh muh muh muh muh muh Mike D” spouting “Here’s a Little Somethin’ for Ya” notwithstanding, the three minutes it takes to rumble through “Crazy Ass Shit” and “The Lisa Lisa/Full Force Routine” seem more of an afterthought than a proper conclusion.
Though harmless, including “The Bill Harper Collection” and “The Larry Routine” as disposable interludes does less to amuse than to merely provoke a preemptive skip to the next track. Aside from these minor weaknesses however, it’s hard to take too much away from the release. Not unlike To the 5 Boroughs‘ “Ch-Check It Out,” “Make Some Noise” steadily opens the album with an enthusiastic bounce, showcasing the trio’s still-vibrant interwoven chemistry. While the song might be the most consistent lyrically (best of luck following along without a transcription), “Make Some Noise” might best pop with MCA’s assertion, “I burn the competition like a flamethrower/My rhymes age like wine as I get older.” In the past 30 years has any act’s music aged better than the Beastie Boys’?
From that point forward the album goes hard on building an emotion of sentimentality: the recognizable bass of “Nonstop Disco Powerpack” works beneath a vocal effect similar to Ill Communication‘s “Bodhisattva Vow”; “Too Many Rappers” lashes out at “crab rappers” while Nas hustles over a drum loop not entirely dissimilar to the Zeppelin-sampling “Rhymin’ & Stealin’”; the broken, distorted guitar sample of “Say It” sounds like a Check Your Head-era counterpart to “So What’cha Want”; and “Funky Donkey” cheekily winks at “Brass Monkey.” This isn’t to overlook the dub-fused Santigold collaboration “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win,” the darker “Long Burn the Fire” nor the robotized “OK,” but it’s hard not to repeatedly return to and focus on the tracks which bleed such familiarity.
While a Country Mike revival is about the only thing keeping Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 from becoming a full-blown throwback, there’s little doubt that it’s meant to shed light on styles and sounds from the past. Though continuously the focus of “seriously, they might still have a classic left in ‘em” charges, the Beastie Boys have done something here that goes beyond dropping a farcical video tied to a self-referencing record: they’ve re-established their own necessity within modern pop culture. Unlike many of their contemporaries however, they haven’t had to rely solely on their greatest hits to do so.
[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]