You guys, I actually for a minute thought I was going to do this review from the perspective of some kind of actual Hot Sauce Committee. In a moment of clarity, I scrapped that notion. You’re welcome.
To be honest, I never planned on listening to Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 but Mike Doughty, a man for whom I have much respect, spent like two straight days tweeting his ass off about it. You might think that a Twitter endorsement is a dubious reason for listening to an album, but I should like to remind you that I found out about the Screaming Females (who are fucking awesome) from Ted Leo’s Twitter feed. There are far less useful things to do on Twitter besides recommending music to people; anyone with a Twitter account sees (and does) some of those things every day.
I’ve never been a huge Beastie Boys fan, myself. I think “Girls” is a pretty dumb fucking song (fun fact: Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna married Beastie Boy Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz in 2006. So one of the guys responsible for “Girls” married one of the girls responsible for Riot Grrrl. How you respond to this information is up to you, but I choose to look at it as a testament to the power of true love. Also, it’s a safe bet Horovitz, the son of playwright Israel Horovitz, is not the same dude now as he was in 1986 when “Girls” was released. Also, if you wanna read something fucking hilarious, read the “Song structure & Lyrics” section of the “Girls” Wikipedia entry) but I enjoy “Intergalactic” and “Sabotage” and some of their other stuff just fine. Before Hot Sauce Committee Part 2, I’ve never bothered to own a Beastie Boys album. So I guess this is both the best and worst Beasties album I’ve ever owned.
One of the first things Mr. Doughty praised about HSCP2C3PO is the beats and I can wholeheartedly concur that they are indeed fine, phat, and funky. In fact, they’re so good, I mostly didn’t pay attention to the lyrics much the first few times through the record except to repeated references to Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and a wink to Public Enemy’s “Party for Your Right to Fight,” which appeared on that (vastly superior) group’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in 1988. As I stand before the Hot Sauce Committee for perhaps the seventh or eighth time, I find that I don’t object to losing the vocals in the mix very much at all.
And here we have arrived at the heart of the matter. I have realized that, even with other Beastie Boys songs that I like, they’re never saying much that excites me. Don’t get me wrong – there are clever lyrics galore (“Girls” notwithstanding) within the Beastie Boys’ oeuvre, but most of them have to do with how good the Beastie Boys are at rapping and/or how hard and for what duration they intend to rock the house. It’s fun stuff, but the aforementioned It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is gonna get a lot more reps on my headphones.
Throughout their twenty-five year (plus) career, the Beastie Boys have, however insubstantial their lyrical content, done lots of good works. They brought a lot of attention to the plight of Tibet (can I digress here for a minute? I know it’s cool to make fun of well-meaning celebrity “liberals” for their myriad pet causes, but before you prepare a choice dis of the Beasties – or any other celebrity – for trying to help Tibet, consider the fucking situation carefully. The Chinese invaded Tibet in the fall of 1949 and they killed lots and lots of people, many of them Buddhist people whose religion absolutely forbids violence, even in self-defense. They forced nuns and monks, at gunpoint, to break their vows of celibacy. They forced husbands and wives to kill each other while their children watched. What I’m saying here is that fighting, in whatever nonviolent way one can, for restored Tibetan sovereignty is a completely worthy cause and one the U.S. government is shamefully silent on because we owe China a fuckload of money) and have actually done a lot to boost other artists in the last couple of decades (although one of those “artists” is Ben Lee, whose music is like a sleepier, even more coffee-shop friendly Owl City). Which kinda highlights my biggest disappointment with Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (Electric Bugaloo) specifically and the Beastie Boys in general: a group this musically talented – and there’s no mistaking the talent at work in the Beastie Boys – ought to be able to come up with something substantive at least every once in a while. And I’m not saying they should bust rhymes about specific pieces of legislation or anything, but it’d be nice to hear them talk about something besides themselves.
You might get the idea, if you’ve read this far, that I don’t really like Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (Hot Saucier) but the truth is that I don’t entirely dislike it either. I’d just about punch a kitten in the face for new Santi White music and Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (The Wrath of Khan) provides a tasty dose with “Don’t Play No Game that I Can’t Win,” in which White’s voice nicely breaks up the monotony of the three Beastie’s kinda throaty/nasally tones. I also love “Say It” on purely textural terms and “Lee Majors Come Again” is a pretty refreshing burst of rock in the midst of an admittedly exquisitely programmed album. So while I can’t match Mike Doughty’s enthusiasm for Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 (Attack of the Clones) – he opined that the album is the Beastie Boys’ magnum opus – I love every single beat on the album and find myself throwing it on when I’m exercising and doing things around the house. I’m sure it will make it into various party playlists I construct for the foreseeable future. But dammit, if the Beastie Boys could ever be bothered to say something that mattered to me at all, they’d probably be one of my favorite groups right now.