Record Review - 1 July 08 2004

If To the 5 Burroughs were to fall under the heading of a collection of B-sides, it would excuse the uneven nature of the Beastie Boys’ sixth proper full-length. Track for track, the recording encapsulates a handful of solid numbers, but scatters them throughout a gush of filler and substandard Beastie offerings. On several levels, T5B comes together as a complex, conceptual whole: dense production qualities, homages to old-school pop culture and an underlying after-school special air of “can’t we all just get along.” But the rhyme schemes and adventurous spirit — the meat and potatoes of the group’s character — are a bit undercooked.

“Ch-Check It Out” kicks things off on a high note. MCA’s Brooklyn-brisk rhymes about Klingons, Mike D’s lament over Alpo commercials and Ad Rock’s nasally narratives are immediate hooks that remind listeners this is the same group that delivered the immaculate irreverence of albums like Paul’s Boutique and Check Your Head. But “Right Right Now Now” follows with a dose of reality; this is also the group that delivered the “Intergalactic” mediocrity of Hello Nasty.

“Rhyme the Rhyme Well” is a kick-ass return to form that balances a fast and furious lyrical flow over a slow and low tempo. But “Hey Fuck You” follows soon after with a dull-witted and lumbering tone that’s an embarrassment to the group’s legacy.

Politics notwithstanding, the strident anti-Dubya tone wandering throughout To the 5 Burroughs adds depth to the music, but also serves as a gimmick, a weapon of mass distraction used to draw attention away from the fact that the misses outweigh the hits.