Monthly Archives: January 2009

28. The Beastie Boys – “Check your Head”

Given the opportunity, a litany of ill-qualified folks will grab musical instruments and play at being rock stars.  Be they cricketers, tennis players, politicians, talkshow hosts or actors, the siren call of the guitar, bass and drums is irresistible.  It seems rappers may not be immune to this inclination.

beastie-boys-check-your-head-album-coverThis third album from the Beasties sees them strap on the instruments and acting like a real band.  Thankfully they aren’t as amateurish as most, and are capable on playing jazzy, funky and punky.  And I’m sure it was a hell of a lot of fun. 

Unfortunately, the trio do not deliver as many killer vocal-based tracks. So What’cha Want , Finger Lickin’ Good and Pass the Mic are the standouts. The other rapping efforts are pretty disappointing.  It is the instrumental jazz-funk tracks which save the album from being a write-off. Most of them will reappear again on another more coherent release (to be reviewed here in the coming days).

OK Boys, time to put the instruments back away now.  They make it too hard to dance anyway.

File under: Indulgent and inconsistent

27. The Beastie Boys – “Paul’s Boutique”

Some folks mature a lot more quickly than others. The Beasties came across as juvenile young’uns on their first album, yet as 23-24 year olds produced this gem follow-up.

beastie-boys-pauls-boutique-album-coverIt is truly an enormous leap. Gone are the simple backing tracks, replaced by funky sample-fests. Each song is a new adventure, with sounds coming from all angles, along with the raps. There’s bass aplenty, soundgrabs from over 100 sources and an unprecedented feel of mastery that still holds up today.

The culprits behind all this were the blessed Dust Brothers (don’t click on that link if you’re epileptic, or if you have your speakers up load – otherwise go for it). This production team make this album a real treat. The last track, B-Boy Boullibaise is a twelve minute sonic extravaganza with nine suites and a killer Johnny Cash sample.

Bravo to the Beastie Boys for recognising the brilliance of their producers, and also for laying down some fantastic rhymes. Of course, their maturity didn’t extend to the lyrical content, so we can still smirk along as they go egging cars and chasing the ladies all over NYC.

This album makes my quite regretful of my limited progress from the age of 19 to 24 (or indeed 30).

File under: B-Boy brilliance

26. The Beastie Boys – “Licensed to Ill”

Kick it!!! And so we begin what will be about a week long exploration of the Beastie Boys’ works.

beastie-boys-licensed-to-ill-album-coverIt’s been like a late 80s teenage party in my office all day, as Licensed to Ill pumps out my tinny little computer speakers. I haven’t quite been jumping around the room, but I’ve been having more fun than usual in here.

This album is a real blast from the past, as Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D lay down some old-school hip-hop. The tunes are all pretty basic – the boys rhyming over crude backbeats and a short supply of sampled riffs – but it works. These guys maintain the pace and share the vocal work well.

This release does sound a lot “whiter” than their later work, i.e it lacks sufficient funk (or even the bass) to take it to a groovier level. But it’s fun, it’s shouty and it’s perfect output from badassed teenage b-boys. And I still giggle at Girls, shout along to Fight for your Right, and expect No Sleep Till Brooklyn.

I remember seeing the Fight clip on Rock Arena in 1986 and presuming these guys would be one-hit wonders… I’m so glad I was wrong.

Here it is:

Oh, and these guys were one-hit wonders (well two, sort of):

File under: Birth of legends

25. The Beach Boys – “Pet Sounds”

Sometimes the universal adulation for an album is so unrelenting that I eventually buckle under and buy the thing. This album is one such item. If I were playing the Rich List and was given the “greatest albums of all time as voted by ____ magazine”, I’d pick this first (unless it was a shooting mag, in which case I’d probably go for something by Ted Nugent).

beach-boys-pet_soundsThe kudos for this opus seems to spring from its ahead of its time status. Well, I don’t live in 1966, and indeed reside in a world of stereo sound, samplers, effect pedals and the like. As such, don’t see what all the fuss is about.

There are a couple of catchy, well-written pop songs on here like Wouldn’t it Be Nice and God Only Knows. Most of the remainder of the album leaves me cold and a little bored. And Sloop John B is just horrible!

Ultimately I like my sugary pop a little more energetic and haphazard. This thing sounds like it was recorded, shined, polished and then shined again. Alas, it appears I am a Philistine… (or ahead of my time?)

File under: Good for credibility, but not the CD player.

24. Basement Jaxx – “Kish Kash”

Here we go with the first 3-peat appearance by an artist (i.e. three albums in a row).

I am still a little unsure how to deal with multiple reviews of works by the same band. Should I revisit my previous discussion points? Or assume you’ve read the earlier reviews? Treat each album purely on its own merits (i.e. as if the others did not exist)? This last option, while admirable, is rather difficult and also not reflective of how the CD-buying/listening caper works.

basement-jaxx-kish-kashSo I listened to this release with preconceptions and trepidation. While still impressed with their #2, I was concerned that the band had gone a bit soppy. As such, this album needed to do something special to impress. And it did.

The band headed down a new, exciting road on this release. Their sound got grimier, funkier and more soulful (not necessarily all at the same time).
The vocoder has been put aside on most tracks and the guest vocalists add much more diversity.

It all sounds like a much more interesting party with surprise attendees grabbing the mic (and random instruments) and having a ball. Supersonic is a spectacular number that I wouldn’t have picked as a Jaxx tune. That’s what you want from a 3rd album.

File under: Funky fun

23. Basement Jaxx – “Rooty”

I am a big fan of the first album from this Brixton duo. Their second effort almosts stacks up, but not quite.

basement jaxx rooty album cover

They continue to produce stand out dancefloor filling tracks – the sort that see you plonking your drink down and dashing out to show off your signature moves . On the previous release it was Red Alert, Bingo Bango, Rendez-Vu, Jump and Move and Yo-Yo that got me mooving and grooving. This time it’s Romeo, Where’s Your Head At, I Want U and Do Your Thing.

Hmmm, I see a problem – a 20 percent reduction in killer tunes. This reflects the unfortunate shift in direction for the band that permeates this release. The album has too many slower tracks. At times it even seems like this could be one of those Back to Mine chill out releases. I want more pumping house anthems, not pseudo R&B efforts.

Don’t get me wrong, these guys do a good job of still making it pretty interesting, but I expected a bit more.

File under: Some killer, but should be more un-chill-er…

22. Basement Jaxx – “Remedy”

Sorry folks, had a couple of days away from my computer. And encountered a hire car with no working CD player! But now I’m back in full swing.

After my disappointment with Saturday’s dance album, I was rapt to pulling this CD off the rack. It’s an old fave and one I had faith in.


This is how electronic dance music should sound. A big beat, but with real variation from track to track. There is a real personality to this outfit. You can even here some human sounds in there, like a strummed guitar. The vocals are catchy. The vocoding is fun rather than cliched and dehumanising.

The singles are stand outs, but they don’t sustain the energy or catchiness all the way through. The last track is a real snore. Nevertheless, this is a go to album around our place when we want to get moving.

File under: Bouncy booty shaking

21. Various artists- “Aux88 presents Electro Boogie”

This is another vinyl review, so I return to the “A”s.

I think I bought this album at a sale back in 200o or thereabouts on the presumption that I was lacking some electro-dance music in my collection. Eight or so years later it had remained unopened in my record rack!


So I gave it a good listen this morning and I can’t say I’m enamoured. 

I’m sure this is a very adequate representation of the electro sound – thumping bass, heavy drum machine action, some occasional vocodering.

Dance music works for me in clubs and at parties, and when it has a hook.  This collection doesn’t.  If I was a DJ with some decks, I guess I could use this for some pumping beats and then mix some vocal tracks, horns etc over the top.

As I lack such hardware or acumen, this album is of little appeal to me.  Perhaps it will be appearing on eBay soon.

File under:Doof Doof Dud

20 – Barenaked Ladies – “Disc One: All Their Greatest Hits”

Music is a very personal experience. Its all about the emotional connection you make with the song, the sound, the vibe. Often you assume (or hope) that others will embrace an act in the same way you do. It can disappoint (and bewilder) when they don’t. As the recipient of such heartfelt recommendations to check out some artist it can be difficult to explain why the tunes just don’t do it for you.

bnl-greatesthits199120011This album was a gift from a good mate who loves this Canadian outfit. He understandably thought they’d appeal to me, presumably because they are at the indie end of the rock spectrum and amusing/quirky in a They Might Be Giants-type way.

I have listened to this album quite a few times now and consider myself pretty au fait with their output. And unfortunately it just doesn’t gel for me. The musicianship is very competent, the songwriting pretty catchy, but I can’t get into it. I really dislike the singer’s voice (or is it his mannerisms?), and I find the sound way too clean. It reminds too much of Huey Lewis! Perhaps they do rock/endear live, but I’m not enthused… Sorry, mate.

File under: Good intentions to no avail.

19 – B’ehl – “Bright Eyes”

This is the second album from a small, now defunct indiepop outfit from Winnipeg.

behlSugar sweet and well-produced, this is like Juliana Hatfield without much of the angst. It’s less jarring than her too. The harmonies from the two female singers make a huge difference, boosting the sense of lusciousness.

The song-writing is very unforced and endearing (click on the pic to the left for some tunes). These guys sound meaningful even when confined to some “doooo, doooo, doooo”s.

All in all, I find this a very relaxing, yet uplifting album. It invokes a promise-filled spring day (rather than today’s windy sweatfest).  There is so little pretension here, just a love of sweet tunes, some moog squelching and a bit of rocking out. 

Turns out these guys went on to become Paper Moon.  Will have to check them out.

File under: Sweet and shiny spring sounds