By Noah Lopez
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Grand Royal/Capitol Records
There is nothing new about the blending of funk and rap anymore, especially after the multi-platinum empire established by Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. But the Beastie Boys and their Grand Royal label and magazine are continuing to stake out their claim as the most inventive rap/funk pioneers.
The Beasties don't rely on the heavy sampling of Parliament and Funkadelic that has marked Dr. Dre's work. Instead, they create a sound heavily reminiscent of early '70s blaxploitation flick soundtracks. And if the Beasties have perfected the re-creation of Isaac Hayes' Shaft soundtrack, Curtis Mayfield's Superfly soundtrack, and James Brown's Sweet Sweetback's Badaaass Song, then their labelmates Luscious Jackson have created Marvin Gaye's Trouble Man.
Natural Ingredients is easily the slinkiest, smoothest sound that has come out of Grand Royal, and quite possibly in rap overall. Luscious Jackson take the slower paced breathy female raps that spun out from Spaghetti Western guitar riffing that characterized their 1992 EP, In Search for Manny, and evolve it.
Natural Ingredients has plenty of what made In Search of Manny a promising debutÄ"City Song", the album's first single, or "Rock Freak" easily blend in with the earlier EPÄbut Luscious Jackson have made some serious additions. "Strongman" marks the band's first outwardly feminist stance, with its call to arms for men to support the women's movement reverberating in the chorus: "It takes a strong man to stand by a strong woman."
Natural Ingredients also has the female foursome aspiring to disco diva levels last reached by Donna Summer on the album's standout track "Here."
Once again, Grand Royal delivers the goods in ultrahip '90s funk.
Destroy All Astro-men!
Estrus records has become the home of retro surf/garage rock over the past year, with outstanding releases by the Trashmen and the Mono men.
There's no letdown present in the latest release by Man...or Astro-Man, as they deliver their longest and best player yet.
Destroy All Astro-men is 21 tracks of prime surf grit. The Astro-men barrel their way through their own compositions, as well as tunes by Dick Dale, the Avengers, and the "Mystery Science Theater 3000 Love Theme." The Astro-men combine outstanding surf guitar licks and percussion, with an equitable amount of lo-fi distortion and a wild sense of humor.
As with most great surf rock, the album is entirely instrumental, save for the outstanding samples from early TV and old sci-fi horror films that open almost every track.
And with song titles like "Gargantua's Last Stand" or "You Can't Get Good Riblets in Space," you know you're getting much more than you bargained for in this specially priced LP.
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