Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'd Love to Turn You On #75 - Beastie Boys - Hello Nasty

            When Hello Nasty was released in 1999, I think it was the victim of heightened expectations. Most fans liked it OK, but adjudged it a major letdown after Check Your Head and Ill Communication. For me, it’s better than either of its immediate predecessors and time has shown that it pointed the direction the group would end up heading for the rest of their career. And more than that – where Check Your Head, to the delight of many fans, found the band putting their dusty old instruments back in their hands to jam with the inspired amateurism that’s the hallmark of punk rock, it also set them on the wrong-headed idea that they could do no wrong as that rambling album became noted as a landmark and a new direction. And it was a new direction, I suppose, but it just wasn’t as good as what’s they’d done before. Ill Communication was a refinement of the ideas there and in some ways a move to break away from Check Your Head, but it wasn’t until they enlisted turntablist DJ Mixmaster Mike and settled on a decidedly retro/electro sound for Hello Nasty that the group righted the drift of the last couple albums and put them back on par with the denser, subtler work they essayed with Paul’s Boutique.
            For a little enlightenment about the record, I would direct you past the songs that I hope you already understand and enjoy - "Intergalactic" (and its great video) and "Body Movin'" and "Three MC's and One DJ" - to two other, subtler tracks that absolutely kill - "Flowin' Prose" and the Lee 'Scratch' Perry feature "Dr. Lee, PhD" where the great dub artist fits right in the varied, catchy picture (and also, probably joking, calls them the Beastly Boys). Subtle is the key word for this album. Beyond “Intergalactic” (which marks the last time the Boys were in the Billboard top 30), this album doesn’t jump out at you with a “Fight For Your Right to Party,” a “Sabotage,” a “Hey Ladies.” It marks their move to a more mature sound and style, even while keeping a youthful freshness to the proceedings. “Flowin’ Prose” does just what the title promises while “Dr. Lee, PhD” jokes back and forth with Perry as peers, not students. Well, maybe T.A.’s in the Doctor’s master class, but still, it’s not a one-sided collaboration by any means. Maybe these two don't prove anything. Maybe the album's too long (though I can't find a cut I would want nixed). Maybe people just still wanted that stand up bass sound they had when they played at being a "live" band. Maybe I don't know what people want. But I do know one thing for sure - this album works for me from beginning to end. Throw it on, let the prose flows go, and you’re sure to get the spirit. And unlike both Check Your Head and Ill Communication before it, it doesn’t tail off at the end.
- Patrick Brown

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