Since the release of Licensed to Ill in 1986, all paths to New York nostalgia have gone through the Beastie Boys. But with The Mix-Up, an all-instrumental record, they have nothing to say. To the 5 Boroughs, released in 2004, was an exercise in reminiscence masquerading as a nod to current events post-September 11 New Yorkers hailing the city of their youth. The Mix-Up, in contrast, is an admission of obsolescence. Not that it's bad. Tossed off, underdone, monotonous, unfinished and redundant maybe. But not bad. Think back to "Lighten Up" and "Groove Holmes," the lounge instrumentals on Check Your Head. Now removethe dub and the samples, but leave the low-key vamps, Fender Rhodes, crispy 4/4 snares, congas, vintage distortion and a metered shuffle. "Off the Grid" even crams in handclaps, a meandering guitar solo and an ethereal keyboard. But it stands out only because it doesn't repeat incessantly. Given that the Beastie Boys made an art of plundering everything they could get their hands on, what's left but the history they once made?
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