Beastieography – Movie Review
It’s been quite a while since I last did a movie review around these parts. But I have to put this NYU Cinema Studies degree to good use, so awwwwww here it goes…
Last week the Beastie Boys released their new album Hot Sauce Committee Part Two. I reviewed the album over at Spectrum Culture, and it’s pretty good. Funny thing about the Beasties is how the space between their releases has allowed, not only each one to be an event, but has given me the ability to track each era of my life by when they came out. It was at a Dude Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming when a channel surfing Connecticut boy named Whit stumbled on the end of the “So Wat’cha Want” video and began telling us how much he liked the “Sabotage” video when suddenly the “Sabotage” played in immediate succession. Remember, this was pre-YouTube where if you wanted to see a music video at your whim you had to wait for the powers-that-be at the networks to smile upon you. That, or you had to pay $1.99 and see it on The Box. Anyway, “Sabotage” was the exact type of madcap lunacy and reckless intensity I was craving at that age, so when I returned back to Minneapolis a few days later and caught the “Intergalactic” video I had my mind blown once again. An update from MTV News shortly after told me I still had a good 8 days until the album it was on, Hello Nasty, was released, so the next time it aired I recorded it to my Talkboy and bumped it repeatedly.
But the crew’s mythology was still largely unknown to me. Luckily, that weekend MTV was to air BEASTIEOGRAPHY, a two-hour long complete rundown of the group’s history, bringing me fully up to speed. Remember, this was three years after people started making “MTV Doesn’t Play Videos” jokes, but in-between “Real World” marathons and the pre-TRL “Total Request” show that had “The Boy is Mine” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” battling for the top spot, the channel found the time to air (over-and-over) this surprisingly effective and highly entertaining rundown of the group’s early-80s punk roots, through their tremendous transformations over the years up until their new album’s release. While sister channel VH1 was coming into its own at this time with the one-two punch of “Behind the Music” and “Pop-Up Video,” its biggest critically and commercial successes ever, MTV opted to err on the side of journalism and make a strikingly well done watch.
As great as the group’s story really is, what brings the Beastieography above and beyond most documentaries on the group is the use of the channel’s complete video library. By covering the group from just about their inception over almost two decades, you had plenty of footage in the vault to really capture the essence of who they were and where pop culture was at the time. From mid-80s spring break bumpers to irreverent “rock-and-jock” interviews, the Beasties grow up in front of your eyes. Couple this with actual interviews from the people who were there and input from the Beasties themselves and you have quite the documentary. It’s a shame MTV doesn’t do this sort of thing more often, especially with their archives being such an untapped resource. But hey, teens need birthday parties and babies!
(PART 9 is unfortunately blocked by Warner Music on copyright grounds, but the gist is 2 years after Check Your Head they released Ill Communication, which was basically a more polished version of Check Your Head to the benefit/chagrin of many listeners. MCA’s alter-ego Nathaneal Hornblower stormed the VMAs when he didn’t win for the “Sabotage” video, claiming he also had the idea for Star Wars stolen from him. The Beasties also mellowed out, getting into the Dalai Lama and stuff and starting the Tibetan Freedom Concert, which brings us to…)
We give Beastieography a Five Out of Five.
So until next time…LET’S AGREE TO AGREE!
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