The Beastie Boys blend politics with party time on “To the 5 Boroughs,” the New York-based rap trio’s first album since 1998’s “Hello Nasty.”
The 15-track set is due this summer via Capitol, to be preceded by album-opening first single “Ch-Check It Out.” The group is expected to tour in support of the release and has already confirmed Aug. 7-8 appearances at Japan’s Summer Sonic Festival.
“To the 5 Boroughs” is loaded with political commentary as expected, including calls to vote President Bush out of office and critiques of U.S. foreign policy. On “Time To Build,” Adam Yauch (MCA) raps, “We’ve got a president we didn’t elect / the Kyoto treaty he decided to neglect / and still the U.S. just wants to flex.” On “That It’s That All,” the group demands, “’cause George W’s got nothing on me / we’ve got to take the power from he.”
The set frequently pays homage to the trio’s New York surroundings, best heard on “An Open Letter to NYC.” In front of a chopped-up sample of the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” the group finds solace in the city’s post-September 11th resiliency: “Since 911 we’re still livin’ / and lovin’ life we’ve been given / ain’t nothing gonna take that away from us / we’re lookin’ pretty and gritty ’cause in the city we trust.”
But the Beasties wisely don’t skimp on their trademark goofball humor, with references to such pop-culture figures as Fred Sanford, the Keebler Elves, Ron Popeil, Herman Munster, Jabba the Hut, Foghorn Leghorn and “Three’s Company” landlord Mr. Furley. Each member shines on “Rhyme the Rhyme Well,” a trade-off track in the vein of “Pass the Mic.” “Hey, could you please pass me the peas / and let me get a tissue if you think you’re gonna sneeze,” raps Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock).
“To the 5 Boroughs” features largely programmed backing tracks, with only a handful of live instrumentation. Mix Master Mike’s scratching highlights “Shazam!” and “Right Right Now Now,” while the booming bottom ends of “The Brouhaha,” “Rhyme the Rhyme Well” and “All Life Styles” evoke shades of the group’s classics like “Shake Your Rump” and “Root Down.”
“’Licensed to Ill’ was where we were at the time — drinking beer and acting silly,” says Mike D. “‘Paul’s Boutique’ was moving to L.A.; that was a whole different fantasy. ‘Check Your Head’ was getting back to three of us. This album is really New York City; all of us living here.” Adds MCA, “Having fun in troubled times.”
In other news, Yauch is producing a new studio album by pioneering hardcore act Bad Brains, according to the Beasties’ official Web site (http://www.beastieboys.com). “Now I need to get guitarist Dr. Know to play some guitar solos on some stuff and then finish mixing it. It’s kind of circling above the airport right now.”