To tire of this album is to tire of breathing... A genuine masterpiece.
Ian Wade 2009-02-13
Summer 1989, and hip hop is in rude health. Public Enemy are at their peak, and De La Soul are blazing a daisy age trail across the world. But amidst this, one of the bands that helped hip hop explode into the mainstream are keeping their heads down, about to release one of the greatest albums of the genre.
The Beastie Boys had, two years previously, roamed the world with an inflatable penis and were inspiring youths worldwide to dismantle Volkswagens. With the bratty rap-metal hybrid of their 86 debut Licensed to Ill, they'd shifted millions of units and opened the ears of white listeners to the world of rap like never before. Unfortunately it all got nasty, and in Britain at least the Beastie Boys had outstayed their welcome.
So when Paul's Boutique was released, it managed to slip in and out of the lower reaches of the domestic album chart mostly unnoticed. However, in the years that followed, it became a word-of-mouth treat. It allowed the Beasties to operate at their own speed, and by the time of 1994's Ill Communication, people were beginning to love them again.
This release celebrates the album's 20th anniversary, with an added commentary disc and a delight of options on their website. Extras aside, Paul's Boutique is still a sumptuous feast of rhyming and stealing other people's tunes; in The Sound Of Science alone they grab the new sample culture by the horns and sample three Beatles tunes. With the then very hot production team of The Dust Brothers aboard, nothing was off limits – country, funk, Bernard Herrmann scores, Chic, ping pong; all are fed into the mix. Nobody would even attempt to copy it, such was its audaciousness. Lyrically, Tibet was a few years off. Instead, here were tales of the Egg Man, Johnny Ryall and Shadrach; there were dedications To All the Girls in the sumptuous opener; and subsequently in Shake Your Rump and Hey Ladies too, two of their most funktastic moments.
It's interesting to wonder what would have happened had the Beasties carried on in brat mode. Would their influence on contemporary culture have been the same if Paul's Boutique hadn't happened? Most definitely not. To tire of this album is to tire of breathing. A genuine masterpiece.