After our meditations on the Oscilloscope Angle, we're prepared for something more upbeat. And what could be more uplifting than the Spike Jonze-directed "Sabotage"? But before we move to the video itself - a parody of '70s cop-show intros - we view a supplement titled Ciao L.A. that features the Boys in "Sabotage" persona discussing topics like menswear, machismo, and alien abduction. Everyone's laughing pretty hard when Mike Diamond walks through the video lab's door.
We were especially pleased that Mike D was able to join us considering his recent cycling accident - which forced the band to postpone and ultimately cancel an upcoming tour with Rage Against the Machine. All we needed to complete the picture was the third Beastie, Adam Horovitz, but the band's publicist said he was otherwise engaged.
I ask Mike D if he's seen the Anthology yet. "I've played with it . . . but I cannot claim that I've gone through all the options and facilities, uh, contained therewithin." As we watch "Sabotage," Adam says that they originally shot about 15 to 20 hours of footage. "Enough for an entire season of a cop show," quips Matt. As it turns out, he isn't all that far off the mark. "We put together these little vignettes," says Adam, "because the idea was that on the intro for a cop show, they're taking pieces from the series and putting them together."
Retrieving all of the original footage from the Capitol Records vault allowed Adam to edit together the vignettes as alternate video tracks called "Sir Stewart's Folly," "Knife Fight/Trainyard," and "Raid on the Mob/Angry Chief." We decide to watch "Knife Fight/Trainyard," which features a hilarious dragged-out duel between cop and thug that culminates with a dummy being tossed off a bridge. I'm impressed by how the video captures the reddish-brown hue of 1970s film stock, an effect Mike D suggests was achieved in postproduction.
Through a slip of the remote control, we stumble onto this oddity - a kind of disturbed Sunday outing on a lake in L.A.'s Echo Park. But since the star of the show is Mike D, we decide to watch on. The video's image quality and audio are deliberately lo-fi. "I don't think this one really shows off the surround sound," Mike D offers.
After taking in the track's home-video aura for a spell, Matt opines, "You guys don't really like things that are slick. Things that other people would consider mistakes become part of the texture - like people looking at the camera, lens flares, that kind of stuff." Mike D agrees: "Yeah, musically, too. That's kind of how we work . . . it's like accidents will get edited together."
When Matt mentions having heard a Beastie Boys song on CD that had the distinctly scratchy sound of vinyl running under it, Adam lights up: "If you mean 'Root Down,' that's a loop of a record, and it probably really is dust on the vinyl." Looking up at the screen, he continues, "This one, 'Netty's Girl,' was recorded on four-track cassette."
"With a Sony karaoke mike," adds Mike D. The idea of high-profile musicians like the Beastie Boys recording with karaoke-grade equipment makes us all laugh.
When Adam asks Mike D if there's something on the disc that he'd like to watch, he suggests we check out the subtitle feature. Available from the disc's audio submenu, the feature superimposes English subtitles every time a Beastie Boy opens his mouth. If you've ever been unable to follow the band's lyrics, or are simply hard of hearing, this is your big opportunity to get their message. (Six of the videos also have a cappella versions of the vocal tracks.)
Eager to hear what they sound like on a first-rate rig, Adam has brought along the test pressings for the new vinyl edition of the band's Sounds of Science CD anthology, so we wind down our session with some audio-only listening. (The band's Web site said this deluxe collection, scheduled for fall release, would come with "extra beautiful packaging.") Our analog front end consists of an Immedia RPM-1 turntable and tonearm, a Lyra Lydian Beta phono cartridge, and a Herron Audio VTPH-1 phono preamp. (Props go out to S&V contributor Frank Doris for his expert setup of this sophisticated turntable.)
Adam approaches the turntable with vinyl in hand and flops the disc on the platter. Matt asks Mike D if the Beastie Boys are vinyl enthusiasts. "We definitely grew up buying records. It was actually a year after Licensed to Ill came out that they put it on CD. It still sounds wrong to us when we listen because of the way it was mastered. [Producer] Rick Rubin pushed to brighten the mix excessively, having in mind people with shitty turntables - and especially cassette players, where the high-end loss would be extreme." Adam adds, "When your hear it on the original CD, it doesn't sound right. But we corrected it on the CD anthology."
Switching to vinyl after exploring the high-tech world of DVD seems kind of retro, but it makes sense in the context of the Beastie Boys' universe. The band has always mixed the old with the new, channeling the energy from that intersection into unique recordings and music videos. As a summation of their work up to this point, The Beastie Boys DVD Anthology is as definitive a document as any fan could hope for. But it's also an incredibly fun set of discs to watch - one that pushes the limits of the DVD medium.
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