“Get up!” is the opening cry of the Beastie Boys’ eighth album signifying the trio’s return to their signature vocals after the instrumental interlude that was The Mix Up. This long-overdue album comes as a victory badge symbolising the band’s triumph over the complications of cancer that threatened to rock their success. It retains the rebellious teenage vibe of previous albums such as Check Your Head and Licensed to Ill, yet this time without the familiarity of teenage voices. These boys are evidently still making music for kids, but no longer as kids.
A playground quality presides over the sound of most of the tracks, interspersed with a few more sophisticated sounding ones. The combination of pounding, heavy bass and screeching guitar riffs in tracks like “Say It” and “Lee Major’s Come Again” reassures the listener of the band’s enduring, boisterous attention seeking. There are self-assured lyrics reinforced by energetic vocals, but the apparent tagline of the album: “rock the house until the break of dawn,” is somewhat unconvincing coming from 50 year-old men. It is perhaps for this reason that that line is rendered, in “Crazy Ass shit”, by a child’s youthful tones. The aggressive vociferating in previous albums has been replaced by a high-pitched taunting which attempts to mock the system instead of shouting it down. The result is like swapping Playmobil for Play-Doh – it’s the same childishness. “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” is an album highlight, a dub track with Santigold that features an uplifting, soulful brass section giving it a laid-back sophistication.
Much of the vocals on the album are muffled under heavy basslines, making their interpretation almost impossible. In its defence the album is in touch with the current 80’s revival in a big way. However, it must be said that alongside the understated vibe of dubstep and alternative hip hop, the Beastie Boys are a tad out of place. The line “grandpa been rapping since 83” appears at once heroic, and a little bit pathetic.By Harriet Evans