“I listen to wax, I’m not using the CD,” Mike D tells us on “Sure Shot,” the opening cut to the Beastie Boys’ superb ’94 record Ill Communication. Whether or not an updated version of the cut would have included a discharge about MP3s is for you to decide, but the Remastered Edition of Ill sounds as funky-fresh today as it ever did.
Originally dropped a full five years after Paul’s Boutique, Ill Communication builds on the same tones and methods the Boys used all along. Chock-full of samples and maddeningly sick beats from a host of live instruments used to mingle the basics of hip hop and punk into one enchanting sound, this is a record that yields limitless rewards.
The Ill Communication Remastered Edition comes neatly packaged with 2 discs, original cover art and lyrics for those inclined to follow along – just remember to turn the page when you hear the chimes.
Ill marked another step on the boulevard away from the hard-partying frat boy personas that Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA had worked so hard at in their early years. In the middle of the sharp rhymes and diabolical beats is a hardcore sense of growing up that signals that things are rather far removed from the trio’s early days as New York punkasses.
“Sure Shot” presses the premise early on. Over the celebrated flute loop and reverb effects, the Boys tell us that “the disrespect to women has got to be through.”
That’s not to say that the Boys grew all the way up, of course, as the same lawless vibe rifles through the record in the form of innumerable witty, strange and stupid rhymes. The anarchic lines about a basketball opponent on “Tough Guy” speak to the same glorious absurdity fans of the Beastie Boys have come to adore.
My favourite Beasties cut, “Sabotage,” is a feral yell-a-thon highlighted by filthy guitar and rumbling, twisted bass.
Other cuts like “Root Down” and the piano-looped “Get It Together” underline this audacious record with solid rap gold, but it’s the experimental stuff that really sets it apart from the standard. The uncanny punk explosion of “Heart Attack Man” demonstrates that the Boys still know how to break a few guitars and “The Update” and “Bodhisattva Vow” showcase MCA’s growth as the social conscience of the group.
The second disc of the Remastered Edition uncorks a set of rarities and unreleased cuts that add a new dynamic to the recording. The remixes, like the slow and funky “Free Zone Mix” of “Root Down,” offer new consistency to old classics. “Mullet Head” and the two versions of “Heart Attack Man” continue the Boys’ punk lineage in distorted-as-hell fashion.
The Ill Communication Remastered Edition does a nice job bringing the beats and rhymes that defined growth for the Beastie Boys into a new context. The recording is clean, the beats are ferocious and the bass rumbles intensely through the speakers. These CDs might lack the texture of wax, but they still offer a whole lot of bounce for your ounce.