While the Beastie Boys’ 2004 offering To The 5 Boroughs was by no means a flimsy love letter to their hometown, it felt like one written on expensive stock with a Cross Pen and checked twice for spelling. Despite all the NYC references, it felt too much like “new” New York – the place where the race to be on the cusp of all things contemporary, while still remaining safe just makes everything (including the Beasties for the first time) sound downright old.
Five years and one missing “Hot Sauce Committee” later comes Hot Sauce Committee Part 2. The Beasties have returned with “sharks teeth and tiger claws,” loosening their input jacks and snare lugs and scaling back the electronics from digital busyness to Giorgio Moroder and Roger Troutman inspired analog glory. The Beasties feel permanently young again having crafted an album that is just as consistent, unhinged and enjoyable as Check Your Head.
Check Your Head was a third album debut if one ever existed. It was also a return to the trio’s original punk rock DIY aesthetic; an escape from both the frat boy raps over shiny Rick Rubin production and the crowded Dust Brothers beats that epitomized their West Coast bong blast. Hot Sauce Committee Part Two is the same sort of stripped-down sonic homecoming or in the words of Ad-Rock “bringing it back to 8-7.”
In today’s age of dragging, dropping and Fruitylooping – where the posse cuts require reading the written order of the features to figure out who is rapping – Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 feels more vital than ever.
MCA, Ad-Rock and Mike D each stake out their own rooms in the house party and can use something basic like water and ice or obscure like Grandmaster Caz to outline why they can still rip a mic to shreds. They are as distinguishable from each other as a guitar solo is from a trumpet swell, but still fit just as well together when placed side by side. On Hotsauce their wordplay, metaphors, (tasteful) bathroom humor and playful braggadocio are given the sonic treatment they deserve: warped and flanged on joints like “Nonstop Disco Power Pack” and “Tadlock’s Glasses” or padded with the same broken glass distortion as the dank eerie instrumentation of shining (but still hazy) moments like “Long Burn The Fire.”
The Beasties have also never had better diversions and tangents. The hardcore jam “Lee Majors Comes Again” is catchier and more memorable after just one listen than the entire Aglio e Olio EP, and instead of adding multiple tracks of “yes we really play these things” instrumental filler, Hot Sauce’s one moment, “Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament” falls perfectly in the sequence and grooves just right thereby sparing it from The Mix-Up / In Sound From Way Out yawndom.
Strangely, the one area where Hot Sauce lags is during the two guest vocal tracks (“Too Many Rappers” ft. Nas and “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” ft. Santigold). While the aforementioned collabs are a lot of fun and have plenty of replay value, they still feel like bonus cuts that mistakenly show up during the actual album. A guest on a Beastie Boys album that doesn’t break the cohesion can only be one whose performances are spacey and weathered making them blend seamlessly into the wood paneling and Star Wars posters. (ex: Lee Perry on Hello Nasty, Biz Markie on Ill Communication or spitting over Ted Nugent on Check Your Head).
Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 is a throwback to the days when the Beastie Boys ruled New York; when you could read 100 pages worth of articles on the Moog organ in their Grand Royal magazine; when you could buy Ben Davis and Fuct in the XLarge Store on Tompkins Square and then skate over to catch them play a surprise punk set with Murphy’s Law at Coney Island High. At the same time, Hot Sauce isn’t just for veteran fans; it’s the rare case of something brand new that replaces the “Greatest Hits” album as a primer for newbies; a perfect soundtrack for 30 more years of endless summer.