Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique [Capitol, 1989]
One reason nobody knew what they'd do for an encore is that Licensed to Ill redefined rap as music: it was avant-garde rap and pop metal, foregrounding riffs and attitude any hedonist could love while eliminating wack solos and dumb-ass posturing. Jam-packed, frenetic, stark, the sequel isn't as user-friendly. But give it three plays and half a j's worth of concentration, and its high-speed volubility and riffs from nowhere will amaze and delight you. It's an absolutely unpretentious and unsententious affirmation of cultural diversity, of where they came from and where they went from there. They drop names from CÚzanne to Jelly Roll Morton to Sadaharu Oh, sample the Funky Four Plus One (twice), Johnny Cash, Charlie Daniels, Public Enemy, the Wailers, Eek-a-Mouse (I think), Jean Knight, and Ricky Skaggs (I think) just as tags--for music there are countless funk and metal (and other) artists I can't ID even when I recognize them. And they make clear that they're not about to burn out on their vaunted vices--not cheeba, not pussy, certainly not fame. The Beasties are still bad--they get laid, they do drugs, they break laws, they laze around. But they know the difference between bad and evil. Crack and cocaine and woman-beaters and stickup kids get theirs; one song goes out to a homeless rockabilly wino, another ends, "Racism is schism on the serious tip." Here's hoping other bad boys take these bad boys seriously. A