Dust — it’s everywhere!
First I clean it up and then pow! — a week later I’m cleaning all over again. Yeah I’m a neat-freak, so what?!?
Luckily for the the Dust Brothers, their music was just as prevalent throughout the 1990s. They started with several hits for Tone Loc and Young MC that featured heavy sampled drums, gritty electric riffs, and simple to the point raps. However, they really made their name with the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique — a meticulously through-composed work that ranks as one of the best produced albums of all time.
By the mid 90s the Dust Brothers found themselves back in hipster success producing Beck’s seminal album Odelay, White Zombie’s Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds and a couple of tracks for the Rolling Stones. Not too shabby for a few years work… By the end of the millennium they had also produced Hansen’s annoying but amazingly effective MMMBop, the soundtrack to Fight Club, and Beck’s follow-up Midnite Vultures — another great album that perfectly marries the excess and sun-burnt feel of 90s LA with Beck’s quirky lyrics and inimitable delivery.
Moving past the history lesson, let’s get to the music — specifically the musical connections between the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and Beck’s Midnite Vultures. Sure, both clearly feature the Dust Brothers’ signature bangin’ acoustic beats, dramatic song structure and thoughtful sequencing, but what is so striking is how well they propelled these quirky underground stars into the limelight. Is it because their productions are so strong we don’t notice the silly off-the-wall lyrics (check out Beck’s lyrics to Mixed Business for a good example)? Are the grooves so deep we can’t help but be pulled into the world of Beck and the Boys? A bit of both perhaps?
Without a doubt the Dust Brothers’ production style set the stage for artists like the Chemical Brothers, Moby, and the whole world of big beat and funky breakbeat with their gritty sampled drums, funky bass/guitar lines, freakish analog synth stabs, and soulful hooks. But perhaps it’s something a bit larger than the musical elements alone. Maybe it’s how their productions married the disparate personalities of these artists into a cohesive whole.
Perhaps it’s because both of these albums have a ridiculous amount of Soul; yes that’s Soul with a capitol S. I think so. Similar to when a cook puts that extra bit of love in the gravy the Dust Brothers put a whole lot of Soul in these two albums, and it shows.
Senior Music Analyst