1992... I’m at The Powerstation in Auckland and none of us can see a thing. About five minutes ago all the lights had been turned out in anticipation of the Beastie Boys hitting the stage. It’s been dark for a while and I can hear people asking if in fact there hasn’t been a power cut. No lights and no music playing but the cash registers at the bar are still working. Not that, being 18, me or any of my friends had any money to buy drinks.
So, we’re all standing around wondering when all the lights burst bright white. The Beastie Boys aren’t so much on stage as they’re in mid-air (an image that is forever burned into my mind) flying into action. All three of them seemingly suspended, hanging for an eternity. Then gravity finally reasserts itself bringing them to the stage. As their immaculately sneaker-clad feet hit the boards the beat drops. And the whole place exploded, I have never before or since felt a building shudder that way. Our carefully cultivated art rock leanings evaporated for two hours, leaving us the sneering belligerent children of the Beastie Boys that at heart we had always been. For weeks afterwards all we wanted to do was drink brews and chase girlies.
2011... I’m 37, 2 kids, mortgage, full-time job. What can the Beastie Boys do for me now? Is there energy in their legs let alone mine? Last time we heard from them, 2004's To the 5 Boroughs, they sounded tired and swamped by the nasty turns the world had taken. A lot of people were feeling like that half-way through the reign of Bush Jr., but the Beastie Boys? Surely they, permanent pranksters, were above the malaise, how could they sound so leaden and tired? Well worry no more. The B Boys you knew and fell in love with are back. Check out the half hour clip MCA directed for the new album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. If you like it, go buy the record. If not... I’ll hazard a guess that you were never a massive Beastie Boys fan.
Hot Sauce Committee Part Two roars to life in that most Beastie Boys of ways. Opener, "Make Some Noise", starts with a dirty great funky synth line, old school break beats and rhyme swapping. There is scratching, crowd sounds, much talk of partying and then, cherry on top, cowbell. Most certainly not the new Jackson Browne album. And so it continues. The real instrument(al) funk work outs ("Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament"). The distorted hardcore punk smashing ("Lee Majors Come Again"). The endless cross referencing of 50 years worth of pop culture (most tracks).
What Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is, is a blast, a shot, of musical energy that should have been beyond them. A summation of all the things they do so well, things that should have grown stale. An album of non-stop coolness by men who should be too old to be cool. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is a defiance and a refusal. A genre spanning reluctance to be pinned down and a total middle-finger to the idea that you HAVE to grow up.
The Beastie Boys have been, for 25-plus years, totally unconcerned with such things. They have busied themselves with constructing beats that make people dance like maniacs. With swapping rhymes like super groovy secret handshakes. They have spent a lifetime, mine and theirs, helping art kids shake their affectations and boogie. Showing club kids the joy of punk and reggae. The Beastie Boys have never stopped moving. Despite the best efforts of gravity, time and the laws of physics, my image of them endures – 3 MCs in t-shirts, jeans, caps and sneaks frozen in mid-air, blinding white lights holding them up weightless. Perfect in that moment, just before the beat drops.