October 1, 1992
New sound will blow you away
BY N. TE KOHA
The album Check Your Head, an awesome fusion of thrash, funk and hip hop is one of the most innovative and ground-breaking sound experiences you're likely to enjoy this year. It also catapults its makers, the Beastie Boys, way beyond the creative lull rap music seems to be wallowing in at the moment.
Check Your Head is more than progression. It's almost like a complete change in direction. Well-hard, is downright funky, loaded with attitude and with distorted vocals from hell. Here, the Beastie Boys, King Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), Mike D (Mike Diamond) and MCA (Adam Yauch) return to their punk roots, pick up their instruments and create some of the most '70s grooves in, say, 22 years.
Every track was pumped through outdated valve equipment and the vocals deconstructed into something incomprehensible for the grittiest stuff to be released on CD. Still, the vital hip hop ingredients are there: the occasional scratch and cut from DJ Hurricane and the faithful 808 drum machine filling out the bottom end. Commercial radio in this country won't touch it, giving it even greater appeal.
MCA said Check Your Head was recorded over a period of two years.
"Going back to our instruments and getting a live feel seemed like the logical thing to do," he said. "We were all into playing, so it was kind of natural. We had all been listening to a lot of funk and jazz while looking for samples for Paul's Boutique, and we were all just blown away by the musicians and the way they played. It inspired us to pick up what we had and just create that sound ourselves."
Ad-Rock insists Check You Head is not a rap album, but a document of different ideas colliding. Flick through the tracks and understand that nothing can be safely categorised. The fuzzbox thrash/rap of Stand Together jumps immediately into an organ grinding groove, P.O.W. Rap tracks, Finger Lickin' Good, So Watcha Want and Pass The Mic sit nicely alongside the slow, stoned Namaste.
"I wouldn't regard it as 100 per cent rap," Ad-Rock says."Everything is there. We just put a load of two inch tape on and jammed, and turned those jams into songs.We recorded it live because we wanted it to be fat in sound and attitude." The newest adopted Beastie Boy is Keyboard Money Mark, a master carpenter hired to build their studio, who turned out to be a whizz on the Hammond organ.
"I don't know how he got into the group," Ad-Rock laughed. "He just snuck right in there. By the way, if anybody in Australia wants any cabinets made, Keyboard Money Mark is coming to your town. Get in early. He's good." Ad-Rock's thoughts on commercial rap and alleged racist lyrics by black rappers?
"There are good rappers coming out and there are definitely some embarrassing groups around. But generally, the outlook for rap music looks good. I agree with a lot of things the black rappers say, but we really wouldn't come out with a track that tries to argue or say anything for or against what they say. The Beastie Boys just do our own thing. We're not hardcore or commercial. We're the pop side, definitely," he laughs.
The Check Your Head tour features a live band with Mike D on drums, MCA on bass, Ad-Rock on guitar and Keyboard Money Mark. DJ Hurricane also spins the beats for earlier material.
"I'm really excited about being in Australia. Back home, I met up with this hippy guy who said Australia was all about surfing, swimming and going up into the mountains to smoke pot.
"I'm with that." The Beastie Boys play the Palace tomorrow, all-ages show at Chevron on Saturday, and club show at Chevron on Sunday. Temple will host the Beastie Boys for a private party at 7.30pm tomorrow night.