Release Date: Jun 26, 2007
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative, Rap
Hailed in some quarters as a back-to-basics masterstroke, derided in others as flaccid and stale, it can be universally agreed that To the 5 Boroughs performed the crucial task of lowering expectations for the Beastie Boys. Until then, it was expected that each of their new albums would be a radical step forward -- or at least a virtuoso consolidation of strengths à la Ill Communication -- but To the 5 Boroughs was neither; it was a straight-up hip-hop album, not quite like anything they made before yet sounding undeniably familiar. Its modest success and mixed reviews had the unexpected effect of humanizing the Beastie Boys, which in turn meant they could do what they wanted without having to face the daunting expectations placed on them ever since Licensed to Ill, and The Mix Up, the 2007 follow-up to Boroughs, is certainly not an innovative record, but nor is it a retreat.
The grizzled wiseacres’ second wordless disc, The Mix-Up, reaches back to hip-hop’s prehistory for a dozen lightweight psychedelic funk instrumentals?the sort of thing the Beastie Boys might have dug up on a mildewed 45 for a sample back in their Paul’s Boutique days. But they don’t quite have the rhythmic mojo of the circa-1970 obscurities they’re imitating here, and many tracks are exercises in texture (dub bass! sitar noodling!) that fail to develop into actual tunes. Who’d have guessed that a Beastie Boys record could be too subtle? C+ .