Heading into the summer of ‘98, a friend of mine gave me the heads up that I was about to see the greatest music video of all time. Cue the giant dancing robot, duking it out with a squid-man on the streets of Tokyo. The whole scene really played to my sensibilities as a Power Rangers fan, and gave me something to keep an eye out for on the next trip to Music World.
Hello Nasty came out when MP3s hadn’t quite caught on yet. At the time, music piracy still meant hitting the record button on a tape deck, whenever a song you liked came on the radio. Because of all that, buying a CD on the strength of one or two songs was pretty much the status quo.
Before any CD purchase, it was a good idea to be prepared for the possibility that the 12 songs you hadn’t heard, could very well be complete trash. That way, whatever you enjoyed past the 2 or 3 songs that you bought the album for, would just be pleasant surprise. Intergalactic was a fun enough listen that I was set to deal with that worst case scenario.
Based on the singles I’d heard, I went into the album expecting everything to have that signature “Beastie Boys” sound. A catchy beat, and the last syllable of every line sounding like it was written with Caps Lock on.
Something like this:
“Well Now don’t you tell me to SMILE
You stick around I’ll make it worth your WHILE
Got numbers beyond what you can DIAL
Maybe it’s because I’m so versaTILE”
The first few tracks played along with this idea, but then things started to get weird. “Song for the Man” was like psychadelic elevator music, with vocals sounding like they were recorded underwater. From that point on, for every bit of standard hip hop, they tossed in something completely unexpected. Everything from the eerie instrumental song “Sneakin’ Out The Hospital”, to the smooth jazz sounds of “Song for Junior”.
“I Don’t Know” ended up being the song off the album that stuck with me the most. First off, like a good chunk of the album, it sounds absolutely nothing like “Intergalactic”. It’s this sweet acoustic song, with softly sung vocals that fly in the face of all expectations of the group that’s known for hits like “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, and “Sabotage”.
Over the years, I’ve just grown to appreciate diversity of the album more, and more. Even today, it’s pretty rare to see a group ignore genre conventions, and offer this much variety on a single release.