Paul’s Boutique Re-Re-Evaluated
Recently, all the critics and bloggers have been discussing the music of the year 2009. More on that story later. However, with my usual disregard for following the trends; I’m going to talk about an album from not 2009, but 1989.
The Beastie Boys – Paul’s Boutique wasn’t well received when it was first released, but over the years, it has been re-evaluated by critics and the general public. It’s now considered by many to be a great Beasties album, and possibly one of the best albums of the Eighties. I’m here to argue that it’s about time for a re-re-evaluation, with the conclusion that it was, in fact, rubbish all along.
The main problem I have with the album is that it contains no original music. By that, I don’t mean that the music is derivative: I mean that all of the music is sampled from elsewhere. I find that hard to believe, but both Allmusic and the (ever accurate) Wikipedia confirm this. It’s not that I hate the concept of sampling. Quite recently I got out my copy of The Avalanches – Since I Left You and marvelled at how old songs and bits of ‘found audio’ could be woven into a new piece of art. I think the problem is that, unlike with The Avalanches, I’m familiar with most of the songs that were sampled for Paul’s Boutique, and I prefer them in their original form. I wouldn’t be morally against taking the same tunes, sampling them and/or mixing them together into an Avalanches-style musical piece. It’s just having three idiots shouting over the top of it that I object to!
That’s what annoys me most about this particular Beastie Boys album: The Beastie Boys. Their shrill rapping makes me cringe. These guys must have the highest vocal registers in rap (or even rock) history. It makes for an insane counterpoint to the bass-heavy hits from the 70s that they sample. And don’t get me started on the lyrics! I said don’t! Is there some rule that that all raps should be filled with ridiculous similes and metaphors? All the verses go something like this:
I’m an MC,
I don’t play the fiddle,
I’m short on charisma,
like Jimmy Kimmel
I’m no expert on Hip-Hop; but it’s said that it was originally a musical, rather than a vocal genre. The DJs would mix the tunes together and the Emcee (MC) would be the announcer and rally the crowd. Over the years, it seems that the vocals became more important than the music. Maybe it’s time to change that back. Whatever happens, Hip-Hop can’t carry on its current form. More on that story even later…
P.S. – I have one further point to make about sampling, before I rest my spleen. I believe that sampling can work for the benefit of the new song, but it is bad for the old one. When I first heard a Curtis Mayfield album, I had heard a lot of the music before, in the form of samples. It was disconcerting, and I felt that it cheapened the original record. It was like when I first read The Importance of Being Earnest: I thought Oscar Wilde had just strung a bunch of famous quotations together!