Adam Yauch on bass. Mike D on the drums. Guitars by Adam Horovitz. All of them are good musicians individually, but it’s only when they come together and form like Voltron that they create the intergalactic robot funkotron defender of your right to party known as the Beastie Boys. Occasionally that funk can be overshadowed by their hip-hop body rock raps filled with old school flair or preachy modern day diatribes, but the funk is always there in the background. The more they sweat, the funkier it gets; and when it gets really nasty that’s when the odor of dopness gets you so high you can’t get over and so low you can’t get over.
“The Mix-Up” is a chance for the Beastie Boys to do what they do so well without the pressure of crafting great rhymes or living up to jaded hip-hop expectations. To put it simply they jam for the love of jamming. The album opens with “B for My Name” and immediately one is wrapped up in their methodically smooth groove. It doesn’t blow you over right away and it’s not supposed to – it sounds like the kind of track they would play during a live set between “Intergalactic” and “Paul Revere” to take you down and then bring you back up again. While it borders slightly on being coffeehouse music, it feels like the kind of coffeehouse where hippies, hipsters and hip-hop poets all casually mingle to collaborate on great projects.
Things pick up with “14th St. Break” and the sound starts to get a little dirtier and nastier. The cowbells and whistles are a throwback to the early 1980’s while the dirty amplification of the guitar suggests a scratchy record ably slipped by a DJ into your party’s funky drunken good times. “Suco De Tangerina” picks up the pace even more while getting more retro, zooming past 1970’s disco funk to a 1960’s groove Austin Powers would be at home shagging to. It’s nearly impossible to listen to it without some part of your body moving – a head nods, a finger snaps, a foot taps, and just when the beat DROOOPS out, it comes back more fiercly than before with a banging percussive beat that says somebody gave the dummer some.
From here on things truly are mixed up, but not in a disjointed or disquieting way. Rather the Beastie Boys freely try their hand at different ways of laying the funk down, each track expressing a different tempo and emotional feel than the others. “Electric Worm” sounds like a lost sesson track from “Check Your Head,” the slow moving bass-driven “Off the Grid” suggests both Jurassic 5 and Rage Against the Machine without contradicting either one, and “The Melee” is a funk filled frenzy combined with a repeating that a pair of headphones can barely contain. “Dramastically Different” suggests 1970’s blaxploitation films while “The Kangaroo Rat” is the kind of trippy hip-hop you’d expect from a turntablist CD by the likes of Shadow, Vadim or QBert.
Ultimately “The Mix-Up” is an unpretentious, down to earth, groovy little album. It’s 12 tracks of the Beastie Boys letting it all hang out. They’re not trying to change the whole world or record the greatest album of all time, they’re just having a jam session and invited us to listen to it while it was taking place. Sometimes that’s all a good album needs to be, nothing more and nothing less, just a chance to chill. On “The Mix-Up” the Beastie Boys are chillin like MAD villains.