Paul's Boutique

Beastie Boys

Capitol Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck


There are those who decry the use of sampling in music (especially in hip hop) as being unoriginal “cheating.” I once subscribed to that train of thought until the real talent made its way to my desk. Whether that talent was Kanye West, or the mash-up genre, I saw sampling to be a perfectly valid and exciting form of musical expression. Paul’s Boutique stands as the ultimate “Up yours!” to those would say otherwise.

Furthermore, I had never listened to a Beastie Boys album before this one. Their existence was well-known to me, but I had made no further forays to investigate their music. This album has the reputation as being their best, even one of the great all-time albums – so, as is the custom these days, it joined its acclaimed brethren on my Ipod.

Whoa. That is the first reaction that bubbles to the surface when “Shake Your Rump” drops its final beat as the first major song on the album. The sheer amount of sonic detail and variety slaps one in the face; this is not the run-of-the mill hip hop album you can still pick up at Best Buy. This is Van Gogh in the form of music.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Okay, so comparing Van Gogh to the Beastie Boys might be a slight exaggeration, but don’t mistake my eagerness as an overstatement of the quality of Paul’s Boutique. The vision present here rears its head so rarely in music that it must be taken account of wherever it crops up.

The Beastie Boys play their part perfectly, trading witty line for witty line and never failing to use their frat boy persona. The wordplay on this record destroys what someone would hear on Top 40 radio these days (“Soulja Boy,” **** off), while maintaining artistic integrity. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty talk of drinking beer and smokin’ weed, but if that alone is what grabs your attention, then maybe this disc is not for you.

The Dust Brothers are the true masterminds of this album. While The Beastie Boys have since earned their stripes as musicians, the Dust Brothers took Paul’s Boutique and placed it on the “Greatest of All Time” pedastal. Their production sounds as fresh today as it must have in 1989; again, this is something that does not reflect kindly on the development of hip hop over the past two decades.

Kanye West receives a lot of credit for taking Daft Punk or Ray Charles and making a song of theirs the backbone of a track of his own; that’s all well and good, and he is very good at that, but on Paul’s Boutique, no one track relies too strongly on one artists’s work. Instead, each song is a virtual collage of an incredibly wide range of genres: jazz, pop, rock, gospel, country…I could go on and on.

For example, “The Sound Of Science” makes good use of The Beatles, utilizing four different tracks at various points throughout the song. Oh yeah, and James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Pato Banton, and Boogie Down Productions make appearances as well. Trying to identify each sample used would be a monstrous task; “Mississippi Queen,” for example, gets about two seconds during “Looking Down The Barrel Of A Gun.” Yet those two seconds achieve a purpose; no sound is wasted here for the sake of being cool or dropping names.

At the time, I could imagine Paul’s Boutique coming off as a novelty album. Let’s be honest, what other records sounded like it at the time? However, in the digital age that we live in, such a record has become valid and exciting. The Beastie Boys look like prophets. Who would have thought?

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-



© 2008 Jeff Clutterbuck and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Capitol Records, and is used for informational purposes only.