February 13, 2009
House Party At The Drop Of A Hat
The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, twenty years later:
Paul’s Boutique is a landmark in the art of sampling, a reinvention of a group that looked like it was heading for a gimmicky, early dead-end, and a harbinger of the pop-culture obsessions and referential touchstones that would come to define the ensuing decades’ postmodern identity as sure as “The Simpsons” and Quentin Tarantino did. It’s an album so packed with lyrical and musical asides, namedrops, and quotations that you could lose an entire day going through its Wikipedia page and looking up all the references; “The Sounds of Science” alone redirects you to the entries for Cheech Wizard, Shea Stadium, condoms, Robotron: 2084, Galileo, and Jesus Christ. That density, sprawl, and information-overload structure was one of the reasons some fans were reluctant to climb on board. But by extending Steinski’s rapid-fire sound-bite hip-hop aesthetic over the course of an entire album, the Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers more than assured that a generally positive first impression would eventually lead to a listener’s dedicated, zealous headlong dive into the record’s endlessly-quotable deep end.
With no other album did I spend as much time transcribing and deciphering lyrics, beats, ideas — staring at the radio, staying up all night.