Music

Dropping Names, Cutting Tapes: Beastie Boys – “What Comes Around”

“What Comes Around” is an ebullient three-minute track that highlights the Beastie Boys’ and Dust Brothers’ incomparable ability to create pleasant irony through perfectly-placed samples and humorous turns-of-phrase.


Beastie Boys

Paul's Boutique

US Release: 1989-07-25
UK Release: Import
Label: Capitol
Amazon
iTunes

After the heavy themes and violent imagery of “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun” and “Car Thief”, the boys are back to having plain old fun. “What Comes Around” is a goofy, lazily funky song about the power of karma . . .or something like that. Really, it’s just an ebullient three-minute track that highlights the Beastie Boys’ and Dust Brother’s incomparable ability to create pleasant irony through perfectly-placed samples and humorous turns-of-phrase.

Any discussion of “What Comes Around” has to start with that incredible groove. The Dust Brothers take the rhythm section part directly from the song “Put on Train” by Blue Note jazz pianist Gene Harris and his group the Three Sounds. It features a James Brownish choppy guitar rhythm, a tastefully minimalistic bass line, and some bluesy piano fills (the latter highlighted especially on the chorus). For the most part, the Boys and the Brothers do very little editing to the sample, letting its grooviness speak for itself. But about a minute into the song, they drop in the main guitar riff from Alice Cooper’s “It’s Hot Tonight”, which lines up perfectly with Harris’ rhythm. It’s a subtle touch, for sure. It shows, though, how good the artists really were at finding the right sample for the right moment. It’s amazing that a classic metal guitar riff and a jazz piano lick can coexist and sound like they were meant for each other.

The Beastie Boys show off their lyrical chops as well on this track. Just when you think they have run out of creative, original metaphors to describe their poetic prowess, we are given, “Reach into my mind for the rhymes I’m seeking / Like a garbage bag full overflowing now it’s leaking”. Similarly, the Beasties have seemingly beaten the dead horse of their own exaggerated masculinity, but then we get the line “Rapunzel Rapunzel let down your hair / So I can climb up and get into your underwear”. Sure, the use of the classic fairytale here is crude. It’s also pretty creative and funny. The laughs continue with deliberately cheesy lines like, “You’re all mixed up like pasta primavera”.


If you had any doubt that the Beasties were having a good time in the studio when they recorded this track, lay your fears to rest. “What Comes Around” ends in goofy, hilarious chaos. The Boys repeat stupid words and phrases like “funky” over and over again and make nonsense sounds. It’s kind of a lopsided, messed-up version of scat singing. It’s like a free association game, hence we get phrases like “slam Alabama”. At the very end, one of the Boys throws out the profound line “like penicillin” and another yells out “Doris the Finkasaurus”. “What Comes Around” is in the tradition of novelty absurdist tracks like the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” or “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)”, conjuring up the image of friends standing on a Brooklyn street corner on a Sunday afternoon saying a bunch of stupid stuff. Urban life is full of many dangers, as we have learned on the previous two tracks. If you’re looking for a good time, though, it’s there for you anytime you want it.

Previous entries:

* "To All the Girls"/"Shake Your Rump"

* "Johnny Ryall"

* "Egg Man"

* "High Plains Drifter"

* "The Sounds of Silence"

* "3-Minute Rule"

* "Hey Ladies"

* "5-Piece Chicken Dinner"/"Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"

* "Car Thief"

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image