Album reviews: Beastie Boys, Doug Stanhope - Reverb

Album reviews: Beastie Boys, Doug Stanhope

Beastie Boys, “Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2″ (Capitol)

The Beastie Boys’ latest platter is a fascinating, encompassing listen. Not only does it feature the group’s three MCs Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D — rocking it old-school, expectedly silly — but it also posits them as the hip-hop elder statesmen they are, wrinkles and all.

The disc features the Boys as the name — dropping jokesters fans love, but it’s also a reminder of the group’s greatest challenge to date. While other rappers brag about beating murder raps, MCA (a.k.a. Adam Yauch) beat cancer — a diagnosis that postponed this record’s release in 2009.

With Yauch now in remission, the group is back on the mic. But instead of looking forward or jumping on trends (a la the dub-step bandwagon), “Hot Sauce” comes off like a tribute to hip-hop’s foundations. Between the multiple funk basslines, their titular shout- –out to disco and frequent nods to the old school (from “Beat Bop” to Afrika Bambaataa), this is an homage.

And while that’s a good time and a cohesive listen, there aren’t many standout tracks here. The pass-the-mic party jams — CD-starter “Make Some Noise” and the call-and-response “Here’s A Little Something For Ya” included — are solid fun. And they’ll make you smile with their winking rhymes: Excedrin/Tippi Hendren, lackluster/filibuster, hurricane twister/Wolf Blitzer. But even their collaborations (with Nas and Santigold) aren’t among the group’s best. –Ricardo Baca

Doug Stanhope, “Burning the Bridge to Nowhere” (Roadrunner Comedy)

Doug Stanhope is a comedian in the Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks tradition, a harsh truth-teller who spits both brilliance and ugliness through his unapologetic substance abuse and anything- goes stage presence.

It’s difficult to know sometimes which Stanhope will show up — a recent Herman’s Hideaway set devolved into a drunken pep rally for fans. But the Stanhope we get on new album “Burning the Bridge to Nowhere” is, fortunately, the hilariously focused one. The 44-year-old spews plenty of venom in road-tested bits like “Royalty” and “Stomping Kittens,” but never sounds too hammered to drive his punchlines home.

Recorded in Oslo, Norway, the 26-track album opens with Stanhope alternately taunting and mocking the audience, which leads to awkward laughter and a sense of vicious smugness on Stanhope’s part.

Those aren’t bad things, of course, as his gruff delivery never loses sight of the humor in the profanity-laden bits (the razor-sharp “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” cuts down Egypt and Greece for not having produced anything worthwhile since the Great Pyramids or democracy).

Calling Stanhope an acquired taste is like saying broken glass may cut your gums if you chew it. He’s exactly what he says he is, so don’t be surprised if you walk away bloodied. But he’s also one of the most fearless voices in contemporary stand-up, an antidote to the mindless pandering that typifies some mainstream stand-up.

It’s important to note the album is being released on the new comedy imprint of hard-rock label Roadrunner Records, home to Megadeth, Korn, Slipknot and others. Like those bands, Stanhope eschews subtlety for dramatic, often brutal statements that have become rallying cries for the disaffected and outraged. –John Wenzel

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and co-editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and journalist at The Denver Post.

John Wenzel is an executive editor of Reverb and an award-winning A&E reporter for The Denver Post. He is the author of “Mock Stars: Indie Comedy and the Dangerously Funny” (Speck Press/Fulcrum) and maintains a Twitter feed of completely random song titles and band names.

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