AOTW#2 Ill Communication

Sorry to be so greedy and post 2 AOTW. If I cut in front of anybody, I apologize.

Okay, I’m zipping up my extra thick skin for this one, because it means a lot to me, and I’m not sure it will prove very popular. This was a constant soundtrack to my life after it came out, and I listened to it again in the car after a long long time of not hearing it, and was struck by just how good it is. It felt like riding a bike again after a long time. It feels familiar but still exciting, it moves you along but the pace changes up as you go, sometimes it’s leisurely, sometimes blistering. The reason I thought of it as an AOTW is that it really works (for me) as an album. It’s an odd mix of styles, but they cohere, and they’re all glued together by these wonderful instrumental tracks, which are imaginative and innovative. Another reason I thought of it as an AOTW is that I feel that the Beastie Boys are a band that might be misunderstood. I think a lot of people won’t let them outgrow their persona of snotty juvenile bare-bones rappers – and certainly they started out that way. They changed, though…they matured musically and lyrically, and I think this album is proof of that. This is their fourth album; they sound so good together, they sound relaxed and confident, they still have their trademark irreverent humor, which borders on goofiness, but there’s so much more going on as well. To borrow from the allmusic reviews of this album and it’s predecessor Check Your Head, the Beastie Boys were moving away from rap to fully embrace their magpie-style of gathering every shining thing that caught their eye, and weaving it together into something new…

As it happened, the Beasties had repositioned themselves as a lo-fi, alt-rock groove band. They had not abandoned rap, but it was no longer the foundation of their music, it was simply the most prominent in a thick pop-culture gumbo where old school rap sat comfortably with soul-jazz, hardcore punk, white-trash metal, arena rock, Bob Dylan, bossa nova, spacy pop, and hard, dirty funk.

With this record, the Beasties confirm that there is indeed a signature  Beastie Boys aesthetic (it’s too far-ranging and restless to be pegged as a signature sound), with the group sticking to a blend of old school rap, pop culture, lo-fi funk, soulful jazz instrumentals, Latin rhythms, and punk, often seamlessly integrated into a rolling, pan-cultural, multi-cultural groove

Some of the highlights for me are Get it Together, which features Q Tip, Root Down, which (eternal thanks, Nilpferd) samples Jimmy Smith, and Flute Loop, which is just a delight.

Anyway, give it a go.

Spotify Link…Beastie Boys – Ill Communication

And it’s in the box. Thank you for your patience. Now I’m going to do two EOTWQ. Just kidding!!

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36 thoughts on “AOTW#2 Ill Communication

  1. Love Ill Communication, although my favourites from 16 years ago (wow, that long?) aren’t the same as today, mostly because rapping or singing through a loudspeaker got old pretty quickly. I love Sure Shot, Sabotage, Ricky’s Theme, Transitions and Sabrosa. The instrumentals opened up my tastes too, though I might not have realised it then.

    By the way, I’ve got EOTWQ this week.

  2. Aba – I think what makes it work as an album is the plethora of instrumentals, which provide a contrast to the hyper-verbosity of the rest of it.

  3. Steenbeck, you’re right on the money with this one, from the mad start of ‘sure shot’ with it’s ‘howling for judy’ sample to the introspective instrumental finale of ‘transitions’ this is the Beastie’s finest.

  4. Beastie love!

    Thanks Albahooky (nice to see you on the ‘Spill) and Ejay.

    Ejay, I think you’re absolutely right about the distorted voice. It had never really bothered me before, but when I listened to the album through again…it did. I wonder how they feel listening to it now

    And Albahooky – I love the dog saying I love YOu!! One of my favorite moments in all musicdom. I was torn between posting this or Check your Head, which got better reviews, but this one resonates with me, somehow. Can’t really explain why.

  5. Ejay – where are your questions? I got them in an e-mail, loved them, have long long long boring answers forming in my brain… But I can’t find them!

  6. Speaking of great albums I’m completely in love with Big Boi’s! You’ve heard it, right? Oh and I found out what Da Art Of Storytellin’ Pt. 3 is, it’s Knowing, from Speakerboxxx!

    • No! I’ve only heard a few songs, but I LOVED them. I’ll look for it. And Ohhhhh…. Now I’m off to listen to Knowing.

  7. Steen Gotta say this isn’t gettin’ any play in my vehicle so if you could see my face you’ld probably ask ya’sef why’s he smilin’? ‘Cause this was my son’s soundtrack for about 6 months. Wasn’t totally sure till B-boys makin’ The Freak Freak. I think he & his buddy looped it into a 1 hour long play. Don’t tell him I never really hated it. lots of fun playin’ round. When he brought Korn around – well… ‘nother story.

    • That’s funny, Fintan – I started listening to the Beastie Boys again recently because my son decided they’re his favorite band. Of course he’s only 8…we’ll see what happens in 10 years.

  8. Oh Yeah – Sabrosa – didna no the name but I remember tellin’ Sean It rocked & he turned it off. Teenagers Huh!

  9. Cheers steen! Love ill communication, most around the middle of the album when the mood starts to change and there’s more mashing things up. I have to say the shouting, plus the coming-in-together-on-every-7th-word-for-emphasis B-Boys style does wear a little for my ears over a whole album’s length, but musically there’s so much going on that it doesn’t really bother me that much.

  10. After listening again, I can take the vocal distortion as the louder it is played the better, also something that clicked which didn’t before was the Lee Scratch Perry influence of using a Fisher Price animal box on ‘B-Boys …’ LSP was partial to a bit of cow …

  11. Albahooky – I was just thinking about how many artists I first heard about because of a sample or a couplet from a BEastie Boys song, and Lee Perry is definitely one of them. Along with Rose Royce and Rufus Thomas, and too many other to name.

  12. That’s a better fit for my current listening mood. Possibly their best album. Suspect it was self-produced, wish they would work with someone else. On the album Root Down is good, but not a standout track. The single re-mix, however, is a masterpiece – if only they’d had someone manage the sound for the whole album.

    • I think it was produced by the Beasties and Mario Caldato (I probably didn’t spell that right). I think the messy DIY of it (them playing instruments and all) was part of the appeal in an increasingly over-produced world. BUt I understand what you’re saying.

      And – I’m not kidding about this – I have about 5 different versions of Root Down, from the single whatever it was, and they’re all good. Any interest? I’ll box it.

      • I’m on it!!

        I also have the In Sound from The Way Out, which is their album of all of the instrumentals from Check Your Head and Ill Communication, plus a few others (including my theme song of the summer Drinkin Wine). I was thinking I possibly should have done that as AOTW instead of IC, because it was the instrumentals that were appealing to me upon re-listen, in a “why did I never notice these?” way.

      • I lied about 5 versions of Root Down… what the EP has is 2 versions of Root Down, and then live versions of 6 other tracks. The root downs are in the box.

  13. loads of tracks mixed in at the indie disco – worked well played LOUD – their vocals gets whinny for me – but not enough to put me off… don’t know if the album got played through at the time, interesting to listen last night and re-hear so many familiar snippets.

    nice one steen.. I really wouldn’t have given it a play through if it wasn’t for this…..

    Where’s me copy of Paul’s Boutique?
    might give that a spin now.

    • Shane – that’s (I think) exactly what I was hoping for. SOmebody who hadn’t heard it as an album. I was pondering the fact that the bb’s don’t get nominated much, even by me. I think it’s because when I think of them I think of sparkling couplets, and entire albums that work together perfectly. Not individual tracks.

      Here’s my question…if Paul’s Boutique is the white album of sampling…what is the white album the white album of?

      • on a sample tip – Did you ever get DJ Shadows ‘endtroducing’?

        and it’s odd to pin down what the BB’s tracks are about, sparkling couplets as you say.. but I can remember Sabotage and fight…. toParty, being nomed but not much else.

  14. Steen, if you’re still looking in on this one: the ‘Box contents seem to be missing Track 4??

    It seems strange to be saying it, but I’m wondering if I’ve ever bothered to seek Ill Communication out before: I don’t remember ANY of this, as I listen now. Tell you one thing – Sabotage will be on my Walkman imminently!

    • Thank you for noticing about track 4, and it’s fixed now, DsD.

      And (as a fellow parent), I would recommend listening to it in the car if you have a 20-track-long trip. It’s good travelling music, and it begs to be listened to without interruptions in a way I can no longer achieve at home. (If the girls are in the car – there are some swear-y bits.)

      • Got it, thanks.

        Got about a 3hr rush-hour drive to my course in the morning, and about an hour each way from the course to my Dad’s (which is where I’m staying.) Bloody thing has been mis-booked with our national accrediting body, and exam day has been put back from the usual Friday to the following Monday, so I’ve got to drive there AND back again on the 2nd Aug, just for my exam. I’ll try to burn it to disc with a view to listening on the way home on Monday.

        Goodnight, Claire.

  15. in answer to your question – the white album is the white album of noodling? Saying that, I gave it a ‘proper’ listen recently and was quite captivated by it despite not being a beatles fan …
    Linking seamlessly with the above, I have a suggestion for ‘Under The Covers’ – Ramsey Lewis’ ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ LP if someone can tell me how you do ‘that voodoo, that you do so well’ (posting pictures etc.)

    • Albahooky, I’m notoriously bad at giving tech advice, but…

      the first thing, and this seems very simple but it gave me the biggest problems at first…you have to be signed into word press. I can’t figure out how to do that from the ‘Spill, I always google “WordPress sign in.”

      You know you’re signed in if there’s a bar across the top giving you various options. One of those options should be “new Post.”

      If you click on that, it will open a box for you…you can type whatever you want in it, and across the top, after the words “upload/insert” you should find a few different useful symbols. If you hover your mouse over them, they’ll tell you that they allow you to add an image, a video, an audio track, etc…

      If you want to do a playlist using dropbox files, you should follow maki’s useful advice, found (hopefully) here…

      http://thespillblog.co.uk/2010/04/21/music-player/

      I realize this is all sounding more confusing than it needs to. If you have any questions let me know. I’m looking forward to your post.

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