Beastie Boys: Year and a Day
e goes by the name of Disco Dave,” MCA concludes—the name then echoes between the stereo speakers with each scratch on the Dust Brothers’ turntable. It’s a peculiar end for one of the fine surreal moments on the Beastie Boys’ classic Paul’s Boutique. It was difficult to narrow down such moments: the horns that mimic crosstown traffic noises that reverberate between Manhattan skyscrapers in “3-Minute Rule,” King Adrock announcing the new Beastie sound over Sgt. Pepper orchestral din in “Sounds Of Science,” or the snippet of a Stereotypically Clueless and Uncultured White Man telling everyone “It’s a trip, and it’s got a funky beat that I can bug out to!” The “Year and a Day” portion of “B-Boy Bouillabaisse”—the Beasties’ 12-minute set of studio vignettes of tomfoolery afforded by so much Capitol Records money—impacts me the most.
“Year and a Day” is essentially about Adam “MCA” Yauch’s redemption from his unclean past that gave him a public name and a cartoon-drawn body as the leather-jacketed Frat Asshole he originally parodied on Licensed to Ill. It was a blessing that the Beasties confused and disappointed millions when they released Paul’s Boutique by the end of the 1980s. The record was too ahead of its time. Many fans could not comprehend the nostalgic affection for the ‘70s—a decade of American disgrace and bad taste to many teenage eyes in 1989, along with lyrics saturated with enough cultural references to warrant analysis on websites to this day and samples used more for psychedelic atmosphere than hooks or WTF punch lines to tease clubgoers. The Beasties had earlier moved to LA and shed their skin, well almost; the womanizing is still rabid enough to leave their artistic personas with a lifetime of STDs and child-support payments.
On “Year and a Day,” MCA presents himself as a New Man with the Good Life in a world that hasn’t changed. He’s out there skiing, smoking, and fishing with his Black and Tan, singing “Amazing Grace.” As he puts it: “Fishing for a line inside my brain and looking out at the world through my window pane/Everyday has many colors cuz the glass is stained/Everything has changed but remains the same/So once again the mirror raised and I see myself as clear as day.”
Fair enough, but I just can’t imagine Yauch out there on the boat as I’m listening to this song. According to the Dust Bros’ music, he is entertaining mooks and ladies at a Brooklyn roller disco. The song soberly begins with a bare beat on the snare as sampled from Tower of Power’s “Ebony Jam.” And then the noise kicks in. The Isley Brothers’ cosmic guitar riff and bassline that left trails of colors everywhere across the street bustle on “Who’s That Lady?” erupts. When MCA raps and floods out his lyrics, his distorted vocals are swallowed by the commotion as if speaking into a club’s shoddy PA with the music kept too loud to keep the crowd from fleeing to get another drink. The thick textures are nearly shoegazer-caliber. Driving everything forward is John Bonham’s lurching march from Led Zep’s “When the Levee Breaks,” sped up to roll downhill like a trashcan. A lyric sheet is required reading as most of MCA’s lyrics are unintelligible, save for lines like his intro, “M.C. for what I am and do/The A is for Adam and the lyrics,” and “You can bet your ass.” He ultimately leaves the strongest image on what is arguably the Beasties’ most artistically profound album: MCA standing up there by the roller disco’s DJ booth to deliver the message to the kids that they can have the Good Life away from the streets, if they realize the path to their destinies that “Somebody” planned for them. “I am going to the limits of my ultimate destiny/Feeling as though Somebody were testing me/He who sees the end from the beginning of time/Looking forward through all the ages is, was and always shall be/Check the prophetic sections of the pages.”
And who is that “Somebody”? MCA says, “He goes by the name of Disco Dave.”
By: Cameron Macdonald
Published on: 2006-01-25