BEASTIE BOYS, Anthology: The Sounds of Science (Grand Royal/Capitol) Back when Licensed to Ill dropped in '86, who'd have thought the rambunctious, obnoxious trio of

"/>

Beastie Boys, Melanie C and more

BEASTIE BOYS, Anthology: The Sounds of Science (Grand Royal/Capitol) Back when Licensed to Ill dropped in '86, who'd have thought the rambunctious, obnoxious trio of New Yawkas known as the Beastie Boys would mature into the most socially conscious band of their day? Or that they'd become a versatile hip-hop juggernaut that would outlast the novelty of "Fight For Your Right" to become an influential, maybe even groundbreaking, band? Well, they succeeded on both counts, making human errors along the way (like their ill-advised hardcore EPs), but also starting a respected record label, Grand Royal, and an annual concert to raise awareness about the plight of Tibet. So it's been a busy 13 years, a period worthy of an anthology, right? Well, maybe. The Sounds of Science serves more as celebration than historical document, with the three MCs playing the part of one DJ, arranging 42 tracks—hits, unreleased stuff, a Fatboy Slim remix of "Body Movin'," et al.—into a party-ready double-CD. (The cyber-savvy Boys give fans the alternative of customizing their own anthology through an online promotion with Tower Records.) The breadth of the Beasties' material isn't terribly impressive; their punk and country forays don't even bother walking the line between sincerity and jokiness, and their jokes have a short shelf life, as in the stoopid "Bennie and the Jets" cover included here. But when a song like "Slow and Low," "Root Down," or "Sabotage" kicks in, the Beasties' brash power is undeniable. An ability to produce accessible, funky hip-hop is their most enduring achievement, however, and they're still droppin' Science after all these years. —Richard A. Martin

Melanie C Northern Star (Virgin) Engineering a Madonna-caliber metamorphosis from spunky dance popster to Serious Artist isn't as easy as it looks. The latest flavor-of-the-month trying to leave a permanent aftertaste is Melanie Chisholm, a.k.a. Sporty Spice. Chisholm even enlisted the production heavies behind Ray of Light, Maddie's dip into techno: William Orbit, Marius De Vries, Rick Nowels, and string maestro Craig Armstrong. Orbit adds martial percussion to the catchy opener, "Go!," while the Spiciest songs appear under Nowels' watch. But Chisholm has set her sights beyond the pale—and the dance floor. Hopscotching around the stylistic sidewalk, she lands on everything from sweeping midtempo numbers ࠬa Celine Dion (the title song) to bumper-car modern R&B ("Never Be the Same Again," with guest Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes). Flexing her Britpop muscles, she gets Blur-ry on "Goin' Down" and Portishead-ish on "Why"—and that's not even counting the "rock" numbers produced by def American Rick Rubin. He's at the helm for the record's highlight, the delightful piano- and horn-graced ditty "Suddenly Monday," which evokes the sweetness of Petula Clark. Northern Star could use more of this whimsy and less straining toward eclecticism and gravity. Mel C. may be the most credible of Spice Girls, but Madonna's not looking over her shoulder just yet.—Jackie McCarthy

LE TIGRE, Le Tigre (Mr. Lady) Jumping out of the box with an impassioned shout of "Who took the bomp from the bompalompalomp," the self-titled debut of Kathleen Hanna's newest project would sound like the most completely realized girl group/grrrl punk hybrid to date if there weren't so much else going on. Sure, there's plenty of cheap surf guitar hooks 'n' coruscating shouts and pretty melodies 'n' call-and-response vocals, but Le Tigre is sonically all over the place, relating to Bikini Kill the way Sandinista! did to The Clash, except it's way more coherent. And from the sidesplitting "What's Yr Take on Cassavetes" ("Misogynist? Genius? . . . Alcoholic? Messiah?") to the sharp-tongued put-down "Dude, Yr So Crazy!" to the righteous feminist-artist shout-out "Hot Topic," the secret isn't the rampant sampling or the cheesy keyboards or the Rick Rubin-esque scratches: They're just decoration, adding to the glorious mess-age without compromising or obscuring it any. It's that Hanna, the eternal collectivist, has another great band: She, 'zine publisher Johanna Fateman, and video director Sadie Benning make flesh the inspired amateurism at the heart of so much great punk. "Give me attention/Every day and every night," Hanna sings on "Let's Run," and on Le Tigre, she earns every second of it. —Michaelangelo Matos

 
comments powered by Disqus