Saturday, February 07, 2004

#79) Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill (released in 1986, I bought a cassette copy of this at Wal-Mart sometime near the end of high school. It was cheap!)

As Rob Sheffield called it in the SPIN Alternative Record Guide, Licensed To Ill may well be "jerkdom's finest hour." The boys themselves claim "satire," but Rick Rubin's obscenely authoritive beats (the fourth Beastie if there ever was one) imply that's only half the story. While the guys are obviously making themselves into cartoons, it's their genuine thrill in living out their naughtiest fantasies that makes the album so remarkable. Sure, Ad-Rock doesn't mean it when he sings the hysterically doinky "Girls," but you can tell by the fun in his voice that he's getting off on pretending he does. It's a hell of a lot more fun to hear this masterpiece of tasteless trash than it is to hear his apology "Song For The Man" on Hello Nasty. His girlfriend Kathleen "She's Crafty!" Hanna's group LeTigre's best work also seems more inspired by the former's giddy musical irony as well.

Part of what makes me believe the guys when they say that songs like "Fight For Your Right To Party" were meant as jokes is how well they pulled it off. Eazy-E's rhymes on N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton are often more entertaining than those the by the rappers who wrote Eazy's because writing for a specific character outside their own personality freed them from self-consciousness and the desire for respactability. With Rubin feeding them some of his finest minimalist masterpieces (check out the musical arrangement for "Brass Monkey") and shameless sample thievery (Led Zep and Black Sabbath unite on the very first track), you can see why the trio were able to create such memorable testiments to juvenile assholery. I'm sure music reviews by the writers of Beavis & Butthead are nowhere as succinct and funny as the ones they wrote for the pair. While the later Beastie Boys albums are all rewarding (if bloated) works, its Licensed To Ill that remains the most memorable and timeless.

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