Sole Criterion: Beastie Boys Video Anthology
By Brett Ballard-Beach
August 2, 2012
“My man MCA’s got a beard like a billy goat/Oowah oowah is my disco call”
(Two lines in track two of Paul’s Boutique that encompass in miniature a small measure of the joy that listening to that album gives me.)
Enterlude: 24 hours after finishing this column, I realized that a key insight I had for this piece had been completely forgotten, left in the wake of what follows below. I don’t think it really fits in anywhere else so I have tacked it on at the end. And now -
Five paragraphs of pertinent numbers and observations with which to start:
On Beastie Boys Video Anthology - DVD Spine #100 released in October 2000 - there are 18 videos sum totaling approximately 65 minutes spread across two discs (nine on each). The videos do not appear to be in any specific order (certainly not chronological) although the final video on Disc 2 is for the single Alive, which was their most recent single at the time, having appeared as one of three new or previously unreleased tracks on the 42 song two-disc CD compilation Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science the year before.
The videos encompass the years 1981-1999, and include about three-fourths of the output shot during this stretch. The biggest gap comes from the mid-‘80s, with the videos just prior to and including those filmed for Licensed to Ill not included. There is one video consisting of home movie super 8 footage cut to a tune from their 1982 debut EP Polly Wog Stew (when they were a four-piece metal/punk band with future Luscious Jackson member Kate Schellenbach as their drummer), four clips each from 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, 1992’s Check Your Head and 1994’s Ill Communication, three from 1998’s Hello Nasty, one song (“Netty’s Girl”) that was a B-side from a single, and the aforementioned “Alive.”
Ten of the videos - including some of my most and least favorites - were filmed by Nathaniel Hornblower, one of the alter egos of band member Adam Yauch. Three of the videos were helmed by Spike Jonze, one of which is, of course, the ridiculously and instantaneously iconic cop-show parody clip for “Sabotage.” This one was my favorite by a wide margin going in, but that has changed (more on that a little later). The big draw of the DVD set is a ridiculous amount of bonus material that consists primarily of “alternate angles” and/or “remixes” (40 and 60, in toto, respectively) for 13 of the videos. I air quote each of those for specific reasons that I will also broach in a little while.
Beyond those there are two commentary tracks (band and director, neither of which proves to be particularly illuminating) for each of the videos and some odds and sods of random bonus stuff, the-previously-unseen-by-me-highlight of which was
“Ciao, L.A.,” a mockumentary of a morning talk show featuring Zoe Cassavetes and Sofia Coppola as vacuous interviewers probing the band members, who are in character as the actors who “portrayed” the cops in the “Sabotage” footage. It plays a helluva lot funnier than my convoluted description can convey.