The “rule of three” is a good way to gauge a band’s output. The debut will catch your attention, the second album can often slump with leftover tracks or move in another direction, and the third album will be a good blend of the first two. For my third installment about the Beastie Boys we’re going to dive into the album that brought their love of live instrumentation and samples into an interesting blend. So check your head at the door and strap on your ear goggles, Avid Reader.
Rather than create a follow up album of heavy samples and fun rapping, the Boys built their own studio, pulled out their own instruments and hit record. The finished product is an exciting album that has some hard funk, punk ethic and better rhyming than ever before. Drawing heavily from Funkadelic and Bad Brains, you can tell this album is much more serious than anything they had put out to this point. This also opens a different side of the Boys that many people had never heard: MCA is a groovy bassist, Mike D is a solid drummer and Ad-Rock could wield a funky riff. Their skill is on display during some of the great instrumental interludes spread out over the album.
While the tracks where they don’t rap are fun, the ones where they pass the microphone around show the maturity of the band and how far they have come. The rhymes do come out faster and have that old school feel. The personalities the Boys have are better on display here as well: MCA with his gravel voice has serious ideas, Ad-Rock with his pinch will make you laugh and Mike D has his even tone with a quick wit.
This is also the first time that Mario Caldato Jr. is listed as a producer, and he would be the weapon of choice for the next few releases. He keeps everything clean while the raps, drums, guitar and bass splatter the walls. Bringing in Mark Ramos Nishita on organ, clavichord and Wurlitzer gives many of these songs an unexpected level of depth.
You have the hits: “Pass the Mic”,”Gratitude” and “So Whatcha Want”. Then you have the gems: “Finger Lickin’ Good”, “Time for Livin”, “Professor Booty” and “Live at PJ’s” are a few. Even the instrumentals — but I’ll leave you to discover those on your own instead of ruining the surprises for you. Much like the previous effort, Paul’s Boutique, if Check Your Head isn’t in your collection, get out there and make it a part of your collection.