CD Review of Solid Gold Hits by Beastie Boys
Beastie Boys: Solid Gold Hits
Label
Capitol
Beastie Boys: Solid Gold Hits

Reviewed by David Medsker

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I
t’s funny to think about now, but from the summer of 1987 to the summer of 1989, the general consensus was that the Beastie Boys were finished. They had scored a massive left field hit with 1986’s Licensed to Ill, the first rap record to hit #1 on the pop charts. Almost instantly, they were running into label trouble with Def Jam. Finally, they found a home for the sophomore effort (Capitol, their home to this day), but its release was delayed time and again. The buzz was loud and strong: the Boys were a novelty, nothing more. Then, on July 25, 1989, the Boys finally dropped Paul’s Boutique, the long awaited second album that everyone thought would completely suck. The response was unanimous:

Ho, ly, shit. This record kicks ass.

No one has said anything bad about the Beastie Boys since, even though there have been moments where they frankly deserved it. (Hello Nasty had some killer singles, but if you’re anything like us, you haven’t played the album start to finish in at least two years). The band’s newest hits collection, simply titled Solid Gold Hits, lacks the diversity that their 1999 two-disc compilation, The Sounds of Science, offers, but for the casual Beasties fan (our apologies; the promo sheet that came with this album insists that if we must abbreviate, we say B Boys, not Beasties), Solid Gold Hits is the collection you’ve been waiting for.

Now here’s the really cool part about the album that on the surface will not appear like a really cool part: the tracks are not in chronological order, but instead have been pasted together in party mix fashion. One might think that this would create some sonic train wrecks, but in fact it does just the opposite; it brings to the forefront the themes that have existed in their songs that were not always apparent. The final two songs, “Sabotage” and “Fight for Your Right,” exemplify this better than anything. How was anyone shocked by the band’s decision to play their own instruments and make a straight up hardcore rock song on “Sabotage”? As “Fight for Your Right” clearly illustrates, they had already explored this territory before. You thought the riffs they lifted from Zeppelin back in the day were just a joke. They weren’t.

If there is a rough patch on the album, it’s in the first four songs, which is odd since individually, they are four great songs. “So What’cha Want” (or as Beck likes to call it, “E-Pro”) spills into “Brass Monkey,” and if there are two songs on this disc that do not complement each other, it’s these two. “Ch-Check It Out” follows, with “No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn” afterwards. You get the sense that they wanted to get the Licensed to Ill numbers out of the way, since the majority of the disc’s remainder is less raunchy and more funky. And, in retrospect, it’s a smart call; “Root Down” to “Shake Your Rump” to “Intergalactic” to “Sure Shot” to “Body Movin’” (an edit of the superb Fatboy Slim remix) to “Triple Double” to “Sabotage” is as badass as it gets. For some bands, singles compilations consist solely of the only good songs they ever wrote. For the Beasties (upheld middle finger to the writers of the press sheet, because that’s what the band would want us to do), it’s more a matter of assembling some blindingly brilliant moments amongst a body of work that is downright peerless.

Solid Gold Hits is as money as a Beastie Boys compilation can expect to be. Are there great songs from the band that are not present here? Sure. But name a singles collection that doesn’t have that problem. The only real concern with the album is that, coming hot on the heels of 2004’s To the Five Boroughs, does that mean that this is merely a contractually obligated stopgap record to kill time before they reassemble and make another album for yet another label in another five years? An irrelevant question for those who are most likely to buy this album, we suppose. To hell with the future, they would say; give us a single-disc capsule of the Beastie Boys at the top of their game. Ask, and ye shall receive.

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