Beastie Boys - The Mix-Up

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Perhaps sensing the absurdity of three Jewish 40-somethings rapping about Doug E. Fresh and shelltoes, the Beastie Boys have opted for a purely instrumental outing on this, their seventh studio album. Given the lukewarm reception of their previous studio venture, The Mix-Up offers a timely opportunity to revitalise themselves, sans microphone.

What transpires is a series of percussive jams augmented by the ever-funky clavinets of long-time collaborator Money Mark. B For My Name starts The Mix-Up in a funk-rock fusion style which dominates this release. The Beasties continue in a similar vein as the group slides into 14th. St. Break, with a spicy flurry of Latino percussion and whistles to add a little bit of flavour.

The album retains a cohesive feel, which is in part due to the limited palette of sound from which the Beaties draw. Keeping it simple, each track revolves around the interplay of bass, guitar, drums and organ – an effective combination which showcases the group’s talents as players. However it is this simplicity which is the albums very weakness, as consistency becomes samey repetition by mid-album. The meandering pace in which The Mix-Up flows may find some listeners’ attention drifting towards the end of each track. This casual vibe appears intentional as the Boys pepper each interlude with background studio chatter and sounds. The cumulative effect of this touch creates the intimate feel of a recorded live studio session, as each incidental whisper, shuffle and clank brings the listener closer to being there.

The Mix-Up is the sound of old friends jamming about in the studio. It is a simple pretext without pretence. Whether or not this makes for compelling repeated listens is doubtful. In the light of the high-calibre funk currently released by the likes of the Poets of Rhythm, The Whitefield Brothers, The Bamboos and their ilk, The Mix-Up is destined to be a curious footnote in the long and varied career of one of New York’s most enduring and eclectic groups.

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