Paul’s Boutique was initially a commercial disappointment for hip hop trio the Beastie Boys after the enormous success of their 1986 debut Licensed To Ill, although it’s since been recognised as a landmark. Paul’s Boutique had the good fortune to be released before tighter rules were introduced around sampling, allowing collaborators The Dust Brothers to create a dense wall of sound. Memorable moments like the sampled Johnny Cash cameo in the closing suite, and the guitars from The Beatles’ ‘The End’ on ‘The Sounds of Science’ serve to tie Paul’s Boutique into the grand tradition of pop music – for a full list of what was used, see http://paulsboutique.info/songs.php.
A lot of Paul’s Boutique is simply great pop music, and inflected with pop sensibilities, like the hilariously countrified ‘Hey Ladies’, and the single ‘Shadrach’. There’s also a noteworthy medley at the end – the thirteen minute of ‘B-Boy Bouillabaisse’, which seems like a clearing house for all the album’s undeveloped ideas, but it’s still entertaining in its own right. Some of the more abrasive material, such as ‘Lookin’ Down the Barrel of a Gun’, is not as enjoyable as the pop oriented songs, and personally I’d prefer an album full of light and catchy material like ‘Shake Your Rump’.
Despite their musical refinement, the Beastie Boys are barely less bratty than they were on Licensed To Ill; obnoxious one liners like such as “I’m madder than Mad’s Alfred E. Newman,” and “I’ve got the girlies in the Coupe like the Colonel’s got the chickens” still abound.
There is plenty to admire on Paul’s Boutique; the trio are bursting with ideas, and The Dust Brothers are fantastic collaborators.