Anthology : The Sounds Of Science – Beastie Boys (1999)
Here’s the thing. I came into this exercise with the intention of the rundown to consist only of 60 original studio albums. Next to Beastie Boys, I typed up ‘Paul’s Boutique’ and thought whereabouts in the Top 20 it might eventually place.
The problem was that I didn’t buy Paul’s Boutique at the time of release in 1989. Indeed, it wasn’t until Hello Nasty (1998) that I ever made any timely purchase of a Beastie Boys album.
I was already weighing up whether any ‘best-of’ collections or indeed box sets should qualify for consideration when the Beastie Boys created this dilemma. In the end, I decided that if any compilation was listened to on a regular basis from start to end, then it was permissible. Which is any Anthology : The Sounds Of Science is in the rundown at #53, a position far lower than Paul’s Boutique would have obtained.
This particular release contains 42 tracks, of which around one-third were what could be described as hits. The rest consists of album tracks, b-sides and some material that had previously been unreleased. It’s not offered up in any chronological fashion, and the best-known songs are scattered liberally throughout.
It came out a year after their fifth studio album, the aforementioned Hello Nasty. It would have been an easy cash-in to shove out a single disc of all the popular songs with minimum attention paid to the artwork and packaging. Indeed, such a release would likely have generated more sales, as some would be-purchasers would have been put off by some reviews that concentrated on the unreleased material on the basis that quality control was the reason a lot of the songs hadn’t previously seen the light of day.
Instead, the two discs came beautifully packaged, complete with a lovingly written 80-page booklet offering up the backstories of each track, in the words of one or other of Adam Yauch, Michael Diamond or Adam Horowitz, along with many previously unseen photographs. Sure, there were bits on both discs that seemed a tad superfluous, but not at any time should they be regarded as self-indulgent. No Beastie Boys album had ever been a straightforward listen, so why should this collection be any different?
Beastie Boys are a rare example of a group winning me over after early scepticism. I wasn’t enamoured by the debut album, Licensed To Ill (1986) nor its early singles. It was for this reason, as much as any other, that I paid no attention to Paul’s Boutique when it hit the shops. I wasn’t alone in this, certainly in the UK, as the album didn’t sell all that well. Their next album, Check Your Head (1992) didn’t even make the Top 100 over here and to all intent and purposes, the trio had been dismissed and forgotten.
It was the release of Ill Communication (1994) and the relative success of the singles Sabotage and Sure Shot that transformed their fortunes over here. The end of year write-ups were full of praise, and so I made sure I got Santa to deliver me a copy. Things being what they are at such busy times (I had just got myself a new job in Glasgow) that it took me a few months to actually sit down and give it a proper listen. It proved to be the album that had me reassessing things and eventually going back to listen to what I had missed.
7 thoughts on “60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #53”
You won’t believe this, JC, but guess who I posted this morning… Your post resonated with me as I had a similar experience, i.e. I was very late to buying any Beastie Boys albums. In fact, my first was Anthology though I didn’t get it until early in the new millennium. Unlike you, I did like what I heard in the 1980s, just never took the step of actually buying the albums. Now? Completely won over.
I’ll go one step further and say that I hated the Beastie Boys when I first heard them! The frat boy rapping of “License To Ill” was 180˚ from my listening tastes. By that point, I had begun to thaw to rap music [you can tell I’m old there] and by 1983 Run-DMC was getting the nod from me. But my early exposure to the Beastie Boys was met by a glacier-like firewall. The only spark I heard in the first album material was “Hold It Now, Hit It.” But MTV wasn’t playing that 8 times a day!
When MTV showed “Hey Ladies” from “Paul’s Boutique” it was briefly in rotation before flopping miserably. I will admit to being intrigued greatly by it, [and the video was perhaps the first retro-70s pastiche I had seen yet] but I felt the band was so toxic from their first album, I dared not investigate.
When shopping years later in the 00s with my wife for CDs, I was astonished that she picked up “License To Ill,” and when I gave it a listen it was making me turn it off before it was over. The lyrics referring to guns were really offensive to me. It wasn’t until the next decade until I saw “Paul’s Boutique” in a dollar CD sale in the basement of a local store that I picked that one up. In contrast, to the first album, it is an album that always makes me crack a smile. It was as if they distilled their essences and poured it into the discs. I thought it captured the truth of who they were. The next sale there I bought “Check Your Head,” the album that renewed their fortunes in America in the 90s when I had stopped watching television, so I missed that completely.
I absolutely loved “Beastie Boys Book” when my wife bought it home from work [she works in a library] and also enjoyed the “Beastie Boys Story” film, which was an endearing and innovative approach to documentary. I’m now open to hearing more than the first three CDs we have and carrying forward on these guys. Which astonishes the 23 year old me.
From Paul’s Boutique to Hello Nasty they were pretty much the best band in the world- Check Your Head and Ill Communication are two of the 90s most essential albums. No one else was doing what they did. Limitless creativity
Great post PPM. The book and film are both quite wonderful.
This post is both honest and correct in picking the compilation you did. Everyone always pretends they were down from day one with the Beastie Boys but Licence To Ill was a novelty record. I did buy it. But I was a kid. Paul’s Boutique was not bought by all and sundry until after the growth of Check Your Head and Ill Communication. The band really blew up upon the release of Sabotage for me and my indie club friends. Hip hop heads claim it from PB onwards. When all my hip hop records were lost I a break up I relied heavily on this comp dying my weekend train journeys from St Albans to Manchester. The odd stuff really make it. The Beatsy Booooooous. They got it goin’ on. They goin’ on. They goin’ ooooooon
I was way too young/uncool to appreciate the beastie boys when they first erm , ‘dropped’ and like so many I fell hook line and everything for them when I heard Sabotage. They were the greatest band in the world for such a long time in my eyes .
Ill Communication is the album I keep going back too though.
This is a great series so well written.
One tune I always really loved from this was “Live Wire”. I thought it was so cool when they got all spacey and weird. But you could still hear their thick Brooklyn accents underneath it all.