Beastie Boys All Mixed Up
by Guy Emanuel
“The Mix Up” begins with the Beastie Boys talking in that classic “We Are in The Studio” style, where before you play any instruments you talk about something random or talk about the fact that you are about to record. For true Beastie Boys, or as Biz Markie calls them, Beatsie Boys, fans it’s no surprise that they dropped a fully instrumental album. They did it back in the 90’s when they released the “In Sound From Way Out” album which was a brilliant moog-filled ode to Perrey and Kingsley and their album by the same name, which was one of the first mainstream electronic albums.
It was said that Money Mark crashed into the Beastie’s west coast studio fence, and since he was a crafty carpenter he told them that he could easily fix it. They told him that would be great and invited him to a party they were throwing that night. Later, they found out that he played keys and soon Mark Ramos-Nishita became their Keyboard Money Mark man. Their chemistry was obvious starting with the album “Check Your Head.” The Boys let their samplers rest a bit and took out their instruments. Mario Caldato, their engineer, was running the boards and so the Boys were free to jam and have it all archived and easily chopped up and sampled for later use. These bits and pieces of live jams created the back bone for some of the best Beastie hip hop songs to date. However, it’s the more funky instrumentals that were not chopped up that created some of the most amazing and hip retro funk grooves to come out of white kids since Weather Report (sans the non white player).
Fast forward over 10 years later and they are back to the instruments. “The Mix Up” is an appropriate title for this album, which really does sound like a mix of jamming in a basement. There are a few shining moments, but any group of kids with instruments will have those same moments. The keys are probably the only redeeming factor. Money Mark always had an ear for the perfect vintage synth to match the catchy lines that he would pound out of his machines, and MCA would compliment it on his electric stand up bass, but Mike D still sounds like he needs drum lessons. On their last instrumental album, that fact was covered up very nicely by Bobo, their percussionist, but he seems to not be in the house on this one.
Check out the seventh track, “Off the Grind,” to hear one of the more impressive songs that Money Mark’s catchy pop sensibilities are all over. The album’s jams are just that…just jams. I’m left waiting for the development, for the structure, for the instrumental chorus and verses. I’m not giving up though because pushing 40 and soon enough 50, the Beasties still put out relevant and funky music for kids and us older fans to bump to in our hoopdie’s (not sure what those are).
The Beastie’s have been at the forefront of almost everything cool since they came up with their band name (Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence). Oddly enough, at the time of their band name epiphany Kate Schellenbach of Luscious Jackson was in the group. The Beasties started more fashion trends than any music group ever. The only reason most people don’t know that is because they were always mainstream, but just below the radar enough to subtly influence it all. Even their social and environmental causes that they tried so hard to push a decade ago have finally caught on and now you can’t go to a big stadium concert without someone pushing a pen for your signature on their causes petition. It’s a good thing and it shows the power of the Beastie. This power that they have set for themselves has created a legacy of music, but has also made it hard for them to keep churning out albums that beat their last. “The Mix Up” definitely does not beat any of their past albums, but I’ll be signing petitions till their next CD and I know that they will bring that funk back…the funk that Biz Markie used to shake his belly to oh so crazily!