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Album: Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol)

If Hot Sauce Committee Part Two has a slightly confusing, unfocused manner, that's hardly surprising.

Originally scheduled for a 2009 release, the original Hot Sauce Committee was put on hold due to Adam (MCA) Yauch's sudden cancer scare (since successfully treated, thankfully). In the interim, more tracks were completed, hence the additional Part Two, which in typical Beastie style received an earlier release date than the original. Except that, further muddying the waters, lengthy re-sequencing sessions somehow resulted in all of the additional Part Two tracks being replaced by all of the original album's. Which leaves us, if I'm following this correctly, with the original Hot Sauce Committee album under an anachronistic title, to be followed by another. Perhaps.

Whatever, it's a weird one, neither fish nor fowl, but unmistakably Beastie. Effectively, it's a sort of halfway-house combination of their old-school sample-collage stuff and the played grooves they got into around the time of Check Your Head. The latter style is most single-mindedly represented by "Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament", an itchy instrumental shuffle of low-riding bass and fatback keyboard funk; but more often, the elements are combined in arrangements in which clarity of fidelity is clearly not the most pressing matter. "Say It" is a rough scratch'n'breakbeat groove whose grainy sound incorporates creaking whines and yawns of feedback, while "Tadlock's Glasses" features a bleeptastic synth arrangement akin to Raymond Scott in outer-space mode. Elsewhere, "Lee Majors Come Again" is a straight heavy-rock number, while the opening "Make Some Noise" incorporates the nastiest of wah-wah keyboard buzz-riffs as the Boys re-jig their own history: "We got a party on the left, a party on the right, we got a party in the middle, got a right to fight".

Sadly, this is about as deep as their politics go on Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, the more articulate sentiments of To the 5 Boroughs having been largely abandoned in favour of fairly standard bring-the-noise, boast'n'diss hip-hop pablum. Which is fine if you want to continue the ancient rap throwdown culture of "Too Many Rappers", or are impressed by self-aggrandising blather like "I got shark's teeth so I can bite your head off, I got tiger's claws that's scratch you dead, I got moves like a dragon...", etc. Otherwise, the album's attractions are mostly instrumental, and often spoilt by the whining vocal interjections.

It's certainly telling that by far the best line on the album is borrowed from Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" – but then, it would be, if you're fool enough to set up the comparison in the first place. As it happens, the success of the track in question – a triumphant dub skank called "Don't Play No Game That I Can't Win" – may be primarily down to the trio's collaboration with Santogold, who brings her own unique charm to the party and shows everyone up.

DOWNLOAD THIS Don't Play No Game That I Can' t Win; Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament; Say It