Picks and Pans Review: Paul's Boutique

updated 08/28/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/28/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Beastie Boys

At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let us assert right off the bat that Paul's Boutique is as important a record in 1989 as Dylan's Blonde on Blonde was in 1966. Everyone who thought the Beasties were just rude, crude, moronically loutish delinquents, the Three Stooges of rap, think again.

With their second album, the New York trio has created a prodigiously inventive, genre-blending, free-for-all style. Earlier this year De La Soul proved that rap can be comic-book playful. The Beasties start with that premise and, using mocking, often smutty irreverence and eclectic melodic borrowings, they place themselves right on the threshold of art.

Yes, it's lowbrow. (You were expecting maybe Gustav Mahler?) The B Boys put this charged, imaginative album together like a bird's nest, with little scraps and pieces of whatever came to hand. Some of the music is original, a lot is sampled—the Beatles, the Isley Brothers and Johnny Cash are some of the less obscure vinyl sources—and some of it is tongue-in-cheek swiping at other styles. Then throw in a big dash of found sounds, spoken voices and synthesizer garble, and you've got one hellacious, neo-psychedelic stew.

The rap lyrics are just as surprising as the music. Where else will you hear Japanese baseball superstar Sadaharu Oh and dismal TV game-show host Chuck Woolery linked in the same breath? Or NBA journeyman Harthorne Wingo and Napoleon Bonaparte? Or Charles Dickens and Mad magazine's Alfred E. Neuman?

The only damper on the album is that the boys' strident Huey, Dewey and Louie sound gets on the nerves—it's a reminder of how obnoxious these guys are at heart. But guess what? These wiseacres just delivered the most daring, clever record of the year. (Capitol)

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