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Beastie Boys
Paul's Boutique (20th Anniversary Edition)
Capitol Records
www.beastieboys.com


I didn't buy a CD player until the summer of 1989. I was a poor college student and had been collecting stacks of cassettes and vinyl until that time. One of the earliest CDs I bought was Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys. Everybody was expecting License To Ill part 2. "Fight For Your Fight To Party," "Brass Monkey," "Girls," etc. had blown up in late 87 and into 88. The expectation was the new Beastie Boys' album would be filled with more raucous fratboy party anthems by America's great white hopes.

When the Beasties teamed up with the Dust Brothers, the result was something that frankly confused some folks. What was it? Was it a concept album? At first listen I remember I wasn't too sure myself. But after a few listens it became clear. It was apparent that, hit single or not, the album was destined to be monumental. It was groundbreaking in the use of samples layer upon layer, the Beastie Boys and the Dust Brothers transformed the landscape of the genre and ultimately pop music itself. Granted, nobody could afford to make this album and actually pay for the rights today. So in that regard it changed the landscape, too.

At the time it was probably viewed as a commercial disappointment. Sure there are a some singles, "Hey Ladies," "Egg Man," and "Shake Your Rump." But nothing on Paul's Boutique really got the airplay its predecessor got. Still, it slowly grew as people discovered its significance.

Anyone who likes hip-hop already has this album. This is no new ground to cover. So why buy the re-issue? One, you can get a sweet 180g-vinyl version of it. Or if you're so inclined you can get it in Apple Lossless or FLAC forms. It's also been remastered. If you care about that kind of thing, it's cool. In a side-by-side comparison the reissue sounds a little brighter than the original. The spatial separation, particularly on some of the samples, is a little better defined. The Beasties tread dangerously close to the tendency by artists of late to make music louder just for the sake of being loud. But the remastering does allow more crispness in the samples, which makes one hear some things a little differently than they did twenty years ago.

The only change track-wise is the way that "B-Boy Bouillabaisse" is split into its component parts as separate tracks rather than many sub-indexes the original had. Since no modern CD players see indexes this makes sense. Sonic Youth did the same thing with "The Trilogy:" on Daydream Nation.

A 53 minute commentary by the band is available on their website. It offers some insight into the characters around the album and what was going on at the time. You can download that for free anyway, but it's a good listen.

The bottom line is this: If you don't already own some form of Paul's Boutique, crawl out of your hovel and buy it today, or whenever the state loads your state-issued debit card. Some have called it the hip-hop Pet Sounds or Dark Side Of The Moon. That should be endorsement enough. If you already own this album, even in its original form, dust it off, get in your way-back machine and revisit it.

-Chad Leabo

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