I always thought the Beastie Boys were New York frat boys with way too much energy, a musical mish mash of rap and distorted guitars, they never quite fitted in to any style or created a wave of influence as so many artists in the 90’s seemed to do but apparently that’s just the way they liked it.
They never wanted to be labeled, the music they created fitted your own taste, rap, pop, funk, punk, jazz or rock, it was the musical salad that catered for anybody, with a few samples thrown in. By the time of ‘Ill Communication’ the Beastie Boys were already fifteen years and three albums in, starting with 1986’s ‘Licensed to Ill’, which spawned the party hits ‘No sleep till Brooklyn’ and ‘Fight for your right to Party’.
Rolling Stone magazine in its review of ‘Licenced to Ill’ somewhat gave them a backhanded compliment, which stated ‘three idiots create a masterpiece’, darlings of the critics they weren’t. But three Jewish boys from wealthy middle class New York families couldn’t care less, they were too busy navigating lawsuits from their previous record label Def Jam and weathering the heat from various social groups who claimed their lyrics were sexist and violent, which seemed par for the course in the 90’s, see Manson and Nine Inch Nails.
I did buy this CD in the late 90’s but it rarely got played, dust turned out to be its best friend. About a year ago I was surfing youtube one night after too many wines and discovered a clip of the Beastie Boys playing ‘Sabotage’ live on the David Letterman show in 1994.
It’s energy and rawness literally slapped me across the face, the next day I rifled through my cd collection and found ‘Ill Communication’ and another disc ‘Hello Nasty’ from 1998, I cleared the dust and played those discs for days non stop, I then downloaded ‘Check your head’, the 1992 album, ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and the ‘Hot Sauce…’ album. I was now officially addicted to the Beastie Boys.
‘Ill Communication’ debuted at number one on the Billboard charts in 1994, that was the year they headlined Lollapalooza with the Smashing Pumpkins, they were at the peak of their powers, especially when MTV had the ‘Sabotage’ music video on heavy rotation, that clip and its parody of 1970’s cop shows became a classic.
With all the instrumentals on this record you can tell that they’re a band that just love to jam, imagine them in your garage just going at it, they wouldn’t look out of place. Beastie Boys are the people’s music, unpretentious and workman like, albeit with great rhythm and confidence in each other.
I just love the transitions on this record, from the groove of ‘B-Boys makin with the freak freak’ to the tribal drumming on the instrumental ‘Bobo on the corner’, you just never know what you’re going to get, which brings me to ‘Heart Attack Man’, it’s 2 minutes 15 seconds of raw power, which shows the variety that keeps ‘Ill Communication’ alive after so many years.
The Beastie Boys would only go on to make four more albums, the last being ‘Hot Sauce…’ in 2011, the following year bassist Adam Yauch would die of cancer and the band disbanded shortly after but I’m so glad I rediscovered the Beastie Boys and ‘Ill Communication’.
hallymustang rating : 4.5/5