Although I have been considering bringing this record along to one of our meetings for quite some time now, Adam Yauch’s recent and tragically untimely death has brought the music of The Beastie Boys very much back to the forefront of minds. The internet forums have been packed with threads on the subject and it seems that the Beastie’s first five albums (in particular Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head) are now confirmed as bona-fide ‘classic’ albums – the sort that are going to live on, as opposed to flash-in-the-pan classics such as K by Kula Shaker or Be Here Now by Oasis that were somewhat optimistically hailed as classics until people tired of them…on their second listen!
But listening to Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head in rapid succession is an interesting experience. Incredibly (considering the fact that PB contains just about every genre of popular music ever considered), CYH offers up something fresh and new to The Beastie Boys’ sound – a loungy groove thang runs throughout the record and offers an intriguing contrast to the more traditional rapping found on the album. And that sound is due (in part at least) to Money Mark Ramos-Nishita and his keyboard.
On Mark’s Keyboard Repair (Money Mark’s first solo album), the sound that he contributed to the Beastie Boys early/mid 90s albums can be heard in all its (slightly cheesy at times) glory. It’s obvious from the off that this is the record of an artist who can’t believe his own luck and Mark’s gleeful, uninhibited experimentation can be heard throughout. As he says on Don’t Miss the Boat ‘You might not like this type of shit but somebody does’. And Mark sounds like he knows that there would be enough somebodies to ensure he doesn’t need to worry about it. Perhaps a bloke who got his break in music by having his carpentry skills called upon by a rap trio whose house needed repairing knows he’s on a lucky streak. Whatever, MKR sounds brimful of confidence and, whether by fluke or through careful planning, its mixture of keyboard sketches (many of the instrumentals on the album last for less than 2 minutes), samples (Insects Are All Around Us is hilarious – ‘that cricket was chirruping at 76 degrees Fahrenheit’) and fully fledged songs (the plaintive and affecting Cry, the vaguely Can-ish opener Pretty Pain, Got My Hand in Your Head, the Prince-like Sometimes You Got to Make it Alone) works brilliantly producing an organic and pretty seamless whole.
I also own Mark’s follow up album, Push the Button and whilst it contains some great stuff, to my mind it doesn’t quite have the same alchemy of MKR – the transitions between styles sound a little clunky and some of the instrumentals feel a little forced. In contrast, Mark’s Keyboard Repair flows from one wonderful moment to the next so that by the time the album’s climax (and possibly best moment), Pinto’s New Car, comes around your urge to remain in a state of blissed out chilledness will be countered by the fact that you’ll have to get up out of your armchair and turn the bloody thing over (unless you’re listening on an inferior format…Nick!).
Nick listened: Beastie Boys have also been at the forefront of my listening since hearing about Adam Yauch’s death, which has affected me more than any other ‘celebrity’ death I can recall. Beastie Boys were a big part of my musical life in my late teens and early twenties, and I still listen to them regularly; it’s not long since I chose Paul’s Boutique for DRC.
I got Push The Button when it was released – my brother worked for a record distribution company and Money Mark was one of the artists he had CDs by in the back of his car (others included DJ Shadow, Spiritualized, and Badly Drawn Boy, plus loads more) – so I nicked a copy from him, having loved the Hand In Your Head single which had been getting plenty of airplay on the radio. Many years later, I agree with Tom about PTB; it’s a nice little album with some decent tunes on it, but nothing amazing, and that’s probably why I didn’t investigate Mark’s Keyboard Repair, so it was the first time I’d heard it at record club the other night.
Was MKR better? It was different, though you could see the seed of this in PTB – and not just in the reworked Hand In Your Head – but there’s an inspiration and character in the looseness and ease of MKR that was watered down by PTB. Ultimately I’d rather listen to Mark play with Beastie Boys – I just picked up The Mix-Up, their instrumental album from 2007, which is great – but this was very cool and enjoyable in its own right.
Rob listened: I enjoyed MKR a lot as it played and then started to get myself wound up in an internal, and briefly external, dialogue about whether it was serious/authentic/silly/fake. Afterwards I started to feel stupid for even worrying about it. I spent the second half of the record worrying a lot about the motivations of people who create and enjoy music that sounds as if it was found in the back of a skip in 1970, which this does, whilst simultaneously just enjoying the music. Perhaps my new motto should be ‘Worry less, enjoy more’. If only I wasn’t so worried about how shallow it is to have a motto.
Graham listened: After the weather we have endured on the weekend of our ‘Glorious Leader’s Jubilee’, it seems somewhat weird that we listened to this on a warm and balmy early summer evening. Though I was dubious at the very beginning, I found this a perfect soundtrack for ‘chillin’ on such an evening then, and potentially, in the future. In fact I could do with it now as a chilled antidote to the hysteria of the last few days!