These days the Beastie Boys enjoy a status akin to Nelson Mandela – once reviled by many they are now virtually untouchable, the elder statesmen of alternative music. An increasingly stuttering output over recent years (both in terms of quantity and quality) has done little to damage their status, with the result that the delayed Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 record has led to many people’s Christmases coming very early. For those who yearn for yet another classic sounding Beastie Boys’ album, the record will tick all the relevant boxes. The two year gap between its completion and release is of little consequence, there is nothing here that has obviously dated in the intervening period – mainly because the sound is so clearly rooted in the band’s own past. You won’t find too many nods to current trends, just the familiar combination of live instruments, snotty rapping and big, booming samples.
For a while that does just fine. The opening double of ‘Make Some Noise’ and ‘Nonstop Disco Power Pack’ is undeniably thrilling, a wave of noise that sweeps you along with it. The problem with the record is that that wave just keeps on coming back over the course of the sixteen tracks. It has perhaps always been the trio’s problem, a tendency to make records that sound like exercises in sound as opposed to proper songs. OK you get some great grooves, some neat one liners and bags of attitude, but there’s precious here that genuinely stops you in your tracks. The Nas collaboration ‘Too Many Rappers’ comes close but it’s another track featuring a guest that is the record’s standout moment. It’s perhaps no coincidence that the Santigold assisted ‘Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win’ also sees them mess with the template somewhat, introducing a fiery dub feel and a melody that cuts through the noise. Elsewhere, there’s nothing that we haven’t heard before – an awful lot of style but not so much substance. For many, that’ll be enough but for the rest of us, Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 – and the Beastie Boys themselves – may be no more than a fleeting thrill.