OK, we get it Beasties. You're not a funk band. You're not a rap trio. You can be both and you can be neither. You can do funk, rap, jazz, rock, and prog better than most bands that concentrate on just one of those. For the most part, this record is an exciting endeavor...but let's be honest; a 12 track instrumental record from a band most well-known and respected for their vocals and their lyrics? Just the notion of it already blasts expectations way too high to ever be a good thing. Unfortunately, they don't really meet up with them.
While many believe these three Jewish boys from New York City perfected their sound on 2004's To the 5 Boroughs, The Mix-up reverts back to the instrumentation of albums like Check Your Head and Ill Communication, both of which feature completely instrumental funk-based songs that were concise, poignant, and well produced. Whether or not that would translate over 12 tracks, is a question that can now be answered. The answer is, "Eh."
The Mix-Up starts off on a bad foot. "B for My Name" is not strong enough an introduction to get the listener on their side, with its slow [not so]funk and its lack of a chorus (or a climax of any kind). Already, we're at minus 1. The second track, "14th Street Break," brings them back even again. With a much more interesting arrangement and even a darker 'Doorsy' feel, the track actually seems to go somewhere (with the keyboard leading the way). Ironically, the playing of the Beasties themselves takes a back seat, while the keyboard (played by Mark Nishita, or "Money Mark") becomes the essential instrument on The Mix-Up. However, it sadly spends a lot of time with its eyes closed, blindly leading the way through the musical jungle of this record.
One of the highlights, "The Gala Event," opens with an ominous guitar lick, loaded with delay and reverb, which, unfortunately, sounds better suited as an intro for Adam Horovitz' freestyle rather than 3 more minutes of his guitar playing. "Off the Grid" could have happily been the only instrumental track on the album and got the job done. It starts off as the majority of the tracks do, but completely switches up halfway through to a catchy breakdown that would have been comfortable on an old Beck album (more Mutations and less Odelay).
For an instrumental record of funk and psychedelia, it would be nice if the tracks were a bit...longer. Each song seems to be over right when it was about to get interesting. The Mix-Up plays more like a recorded jam session rather than an album from a multi-platinum major label artist. It's interesting none-the-less, mostly due to the fact that it sounds like a recorded jam session by a multi-platinum major label artist...
At the very least, this album gets points for originality. While the Beastie Boys have proven their skills on their respective instruments, each of these 3 1/2 minute pop songs, quite simply, calls for vocals. While the Beasties themselves may not have been able to compliment this music with their vocal style, guest vocalists may have been the way to go (and that would have still been sufficiently obscure). The keyboards attempt to play the role of the melody, but fall short on many occasions. Unlike their past instrumental offerings, what makes the Beastie Boys truly original is noticeably missing on this record.
Release date: June 26, 2007
Label: Capitol Records
Rating: 6.5 / 10
On the web: http://www.beastieboys.com
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