The dirty, chugging organ riff that begins “Make Some Noise” is a welcome sound to those familiar with the Beastie Boys circa 1992, three MCs fresh off their genre-defining career peak Check Your Head. It immediately reminds you of the best songs from that record — “What’cha Want,” “Jimmy James,” and “Live At P.J.’s” — all Frankenstein funk-rock creations cleverly disguised as rap joints; they’re swampy, slick as oil, and set ablaze with live drums, guitar, bass, and, you guessed it, dirty, chugging organ riffs.
Regrettably, the Beastie Boys have been living off their reputation and back catalog for over a decade now, their money-makin’, super-disco breakin’ concerts feeling more like greatest hits cash-ins than opportunities to showcase new material. But it’s hard to blame them. Given the trio’s glacial pace of recording (two albums in thirteen years) and the uninspired, uneven quality of both of those records, you realize it’s been a fight just to stay in the game. Hell, songs from the long-awaited Hot Sauce Committee pt. 1 have been in gestation for so long that they’ve actually been absorbed into Hot Sauce Committee pt.2, which the Beasties are slated to release (finally) this May.
So pardon the shock when 20 seconds into “Make Some Noise,” the squelching bass drops in behind the trash can drums and keyboards, and you feel your pulse quicken. King Ad-Rock shouts “Yes, here we go again,” and, for a brief moment, you realize he’s right. This track does have a lot of the same ol’ swagger, earthy stank, and most importantly, killer beats that old B-Boy tracks had. When Adam Yauch a.k.a. MCA rips in: “I burn the competition like a flame thrower/ My rhymes they age like wine as I get older,” he sounds raggedy but re-energized after his recent battle with cancer of the parotid gland. It was always a surprise how well these guys matured (both musically and personally) after the juvenile debauchery of Licensed To Ill, but rapping this well into your late 40’s? Ridiculous.
You can count on two hands how many artists still make relevant new music twenty five years into their career. So it’s stirring that one of the mostly hotly anticipated questions of the 2011 music scene now becomes whether or not the rest of Hot Sauce Committee pt. 2 can deliver on the juicy promise of “Make Some Noise.” Either way, it’s an unexpected pleasure to see these guys sounding relevant and turning heads again. If and when this winter ever ends, this track will be banging out of rolled-down car windows all summer long.