Reviewed by Christopher Gray, Fri., July 9, 2004
Beastie BoysTo the Five Boroughs (Capitol)
Like Jane's Addiction on 2003's kinetic but ultimately disappointing Strays, the Beastie Boys have become prisoners of their own mythology. They've long since completed the transition from panty-raiding Run-DMC freaks to committed peace activists with killer crossover dribbles, but their first album since 1998's Hello Nasty finds Mike D, Ad-Rock, and MCA stagnating something fierce. Where they once avoided formula like filet mignon, Boroughs rarely goes beyond Beasties 101: dexterous party tricks from Mix Master Mike atop electro beats that act as rubber bands for the trio's rise-and-fall delivery. Which would be OK if the Boys were up to their usual wiseass wordplay, but this time around they won't exactly have Jay-Z clamoring to come out of retirement. Yes, Boroughs is an homage to their beloved NYC better commemorated by Matteo Pericoli's intricate cover art than anything actually on the album and as such, perhaps their adherence to prosaic hip-hop topics like skills, unspecified adversaries (save Bush), party-rocking, and geography is to be expected. Still, given the post-Nasty emergence of everyone from Eminem and Kanye West to Dizzee Rascal and the Streets, mostly they just sound dated and out of it. Worse, several verses sound like nothing more than half-baked exercises in studio spontaneity, and they should've killed the Seventies TV references after "Sabotage." Time to turn off the Nick at Nite and check back into Paul's Boutique, guys.