Thursday, July 1, 2004
To the 5 Boroughs | Capitol Records
A six-year hiatus might be long enough to put some groups off the chart permanently, but six years is nothing to the Beastie Boys. After over 20 years in the business, everyone still knows them. That three-point delivery is almost engrained into our collective social consciousness and, today, Adrock, MCA and Mike D have their passing-the-mike gig down so tight that they’re rhyming as fast and furious as ever.
If you haven’t already guessed, To the 5 Boroughs is the Beastie’s homage to NYC. Their reference-heavy rhymes touch on everything from Staten to Manhattan, plus belated reflections on 9/11. Style-wise, there’s none of the experimentation of their California years (the jazzy codas and Tibetan monk chants of Ill Communication, or instrumental fizz of Hello Nasty). Instead of the normal 20-plus tracks, we’ve got 15 lean beats filled with straight up New York street rapping, all coming in at just over 40 minutes. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, that’s for sure. But even though they’re not giving us anything new, there’s nothing wrong with going back to the old school— after all, they sure ain’t getting any younger. (BS)
White 1 | Southern Lord Recordings
Released in 1975, Metal Machine Music was Lou Reed’s “gob of spit in the eye of art,” a grand attempt to deconstruct conventional ideas about the aesthetics of sound. His conceptual coup amounted to sixty-four minutes of formless, chaotic feedback: what most rock fans consider to be the worst album ever released. Of course it was a commercial failure and Reed admits to having been “really, really high at the time.”
But Metal Machine Music did hit its mark in a few credulous listeners and for them rearranged the existing ways to experience and think of music: tactile music, music as landscape, clouds of music.
The combined guitar work of Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley in White 1, Sunn 0)))’s fourth release, finds its place at the vanguard of this tradition. It consists of three songs, none of which are shorter than 15 minutes, and the main feature is a torrent of low-end feedback that manages to be beautiful in an unsettling kind of way, like Krzysztof Penderecke’s contributions to The Shining’s soundtrack.
The CD’s back cover states that: “Maximum volume yields maximum results,” but the mix is so heavy that maximum volume would likely destroy the average sound system. (MB)
Little Queen | Epic Legacy
Yea, though they walked in the valley of the shadow of Zep, they were more than merely a fine hard rock band on this, their major label debut from way back in the middle ‘70s. Having been that rarest of the rare, an indie act in an era where indies never succeeded, Heart’s follow-up was an even rarer bird than their debut—a superior sophomore effort all the way.
Because their greatest moment was and always will be the keynoting single “Barracuda,” there’s no way to be too harsh on the rest of the disc. The title cut reprised the semi-funk of the debut’s “Magic Man” with less hippie mystique and brassier chick-strut, while “Love Alive” was the same sort of ornate FM rock as “Crazy On You.”
The bonuses include a version of “Stairway to Heaven” that is nothing special and a demo. Sound quality is superior beyond belief to the original CD, which makes this a classic rock purchase of a pretty high priority, I do believe. (JA)