Music Review: Beastie Boys, “Paul’s Boutique: 20th Anniversary Edition”
To understand the massive artistic leap and the attendant confusion caused by Beastie Boys’ 1989 disc “Paul’s Boutique,” imagine the response if the Beatles followed up “Love Me Do” with “I Am the Walrus.” Adam Horowitz, Mike Diamond and Adam Yauch rode a caricature to superstardom with “License to Ill,” but the millions of teenagers who shelled out for that hot slab of fraternity raunch seemed perplexed by the dense layers of samples and obscure references in “Boutique.” It sold only 500,000 copies in 1989 — a small fraction of the band’s previous reaping.
Now re-released in a remastered 20th anniversary edition, “Paul’s Boutique” is widely considered one of the best albums of the late 20th century. Produced by the Dust Brothers, who went on to sculpt Beck’s sonically similar “Odelay,” “Paul’s Boutique” included samples from 105 songs. “Shake Your Rump” alone had 12 elements pulled from sources ranging from the Average White Band to Led Zeppelin. These samples were stitched together so tightly that they rarely stood out, assuming roles in the Beasties’ funky b-boy tapestry.
But “Paul’s Boutique” is not just a production marvel: the Beasties absorbed metric tons of culture after “License” and it all got poured into their lyrical references — “High Plains Drifter” covers more subjects than the evening news and is built on the rhythm from Eagles’ “Those Shoes.” And now, thanks to the kind of remastering that is oh-so-necessary with ’80s releases, which often sounded horribly flat in their initial CD incarnation, this endlessly brash, boombastically funky song cycle now has enough bottom end and range to give full voice to the Beasties and DustBros ambition. To quote the 12-minute closer, “B-Boy Bouillabaisse,” “Paul’s Boutique” has “more flavor than Fruit Stripe Gum.”
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