By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Even this wholesale agnostic knows that Tibetan Buddhism counsels the middle path, and on Hello Nasty, finally, the Beasties merge spirituality with nonsense like Allen Ginsberg was at the mixing desk. They haven't sounded this exciting and determined since Paul's Boutique because they've learned to hide the splice marks in their meticulous digital edit of live instruments, samples, loops, scratches, F/X, asides, and blasts of common noise from baby voices to police sirens. Where Licensed To Ill had the populist metal ballast of suburban-bred Rick Rubin, this record looses the Beasties' middlebrow urbanism: there's no punk rock and only one instrumental, so after the ill flashbacks, they indulge their tastes and curiosities. For one thing, they sing; that's how we know they're not punk. MCA chases wisdom and ends up rewriting Boston lyrics ("I Don't Know," a bastardized Brazilian number), while Ad-Rock contemplates narcissism ("And Me," where Kraftwerk meets drum'n'bass) and mortality ("Instant Death," a spare denouement). And then there's the sunstroked cameo by Lee Perry, which will make you dizzy if you're standing up, and "Song for Junior," which adds keys, percussion, flute, and vibes, and sounds like the Doors trying to imitate Santana.
Look, their influence is everywhere, from Bran Van 3000 to the great WNB-Ay promos running on ESPN, and like smart bourgies, they're thinking career. The act Courtney Love once sneered at as "lotsa testosterone running rampant" isn't quite ready for the second stage at Lilith Fair yet, but throughout Hello Nasty, they integrate friends and salute family, and reach to accept the full, weird sprawl of adulthood.
Even back in 1986, they weren't the horrors the PMRC and tabloids saw. Yeah, at that Ritz show, a girl in black underwear go-go danced in a locked cage. (No wonder they're worried about karma.) But it's hard to imagine another hometown act that could have played a peaceful show for a mixed-races audience only a few days after Michael Griffith, a black man, was chased by a mob of whites in Howard Beach, and killed by a car as he tried to flee. Their evilness was a cartoon, and 12 years later, cartoons are the prevalent medium in our culture, even where animation isn't immediately evident. Cartoon TV shows, cartoon summer action films, cartoon partisan politics. Warren Beatty is the new M.C. Serch, and the country-headbanger lyrics Tom Wolfe wrote for his recent Rolling Stone story read like Licensed To Ill outtakes. The Beasties began as brilliant relief from Howard Jones and other devout plagues, and now that cartoonishness is the plague, they know to move along, city to city, stage to stage, rhyme to rhyme. Call them the Yeastie Boys, because they're trying to rise.