At this point, anyone with even a passing interest in hip-hop culture should know the legend of Paul’s Boutique, the cut-and-paste masterpiece that transformed the Beastie Boys from cheeky party pranksters into fearless sonic adventurers. After originally flopping, the album eventually went double platinum, which means that the target demographic for its 20th-anniversary re-mastered re-release probably already owns it on vinyl, tape, CD, or MP3. The Boutique reissue contains no bonus tracks, just a goofy audio commentary where the Boys reflect fondly on their stoned youths, pontificating on the intricacies of egg-throwing and the real-life inspiration for “Johnny Ryall.”
So why would anyone buy this exquisitely redundant version of a stone-cold classic? Perhaps because it’s just about perfect, an essential product of a golden age of creative freedom where inspired crate-diggers like Boutique producers The Dust Brothers could get away with sampling anyone and everything, from The Beatles to Johnny Cash, without paying prohibitively expensive licensing fees. Boutique flows together like a single cohesive track: It takes such a trippy, kaleidoscopic, immersive ride through its creators’ pop-culture-warped minds that it’s hard to believe the journey lasts a mere 53 minutes. Those who don’t own Boutique should by all means pick it up. They might also want to pick up Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Thriller while they’re at it, and consider moving out of that cave. Then again, unlike with the recent Thriller botch (is anything improved by the addition of Will.I.Am?) the Boys know better than to mess with perfection.