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IT’S LIKE THAT: Checkin’ Back In With Check Your Head

IT’S LIKE THAT:  Checkin’ Back In With Check Your Head (photo)

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Today, as promised on the landing page of the Beastie Boys’ website, they’ll be releasing the Collector’s Edition of their 1992 album, Check Your Head–featuring digitally re-mastered tracks, as well as bevy of b-sides and rarities. Apparently the Beasties couldn’t wait three years to give Check Your Head a proper 20th Anniversary party, like they did for Paul’s Boutique earlier this year. And though the third official LP from the Beastie’s catalog may have some thunder stolen from an Ill Communication re-issue and a new studio album supposedly dropping later this year, I think it’s important to point out that Check Your Head capped off one the most creative–and diverse–trifectas in music history.

Check Your Head is proof that good things do indeed come in 3’s (coincidentally, also the title of track #19). Who would’ve ever imagined back in 1986–when the Beastie Boys were squirting beer on each other and fighting for their right to party–that just six years later they’d be playing instruments, jamming out on funk instrumentals? Heck, who would’ve thought back in 1989–when the Beastie Boys moved out west and were rhyming over Dust Brothers beats–that they’d soon retrace their hardcore/punk-rock roots? Put the Beastie Boys’ first three major releases (Licensed To Ill, Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head) side-by-side with any artists’ first three albums, and it’s safe to say that no one has been able to flip-the-script quite like the Beastie Boys.

Each of the first three Beastie Boys albums has it own unique feel. Licensed To Ill is straight up, old-school rap. Paul’s Boutique marks the creative apex in sampled hip-hop, an album so unique in its creation; it originally alienated most of the Beasties’ fan base. And then there’s Check Your Head–an album where the Beastie Boys dusted off their instruments, went multi-genre on us, and confused record store clerks around the world. After just a few listens to each disc, even a novice music fan could probably tell you which track goes with which Beastie album. Do you think they could they do that with The Beatles or U2’s (other well-known script-flippers) first three albums?

Though it’s like arguing about favorite flavors of ice cream, Check Your Head is the best album the Beastie Boys have ever made–an album that salvaged their career and enabled them some 17 years later to still sell out arenas and headline any outdoor festival they sign up to play. Without Check Your Head, there’s a very good chance that–instead of being heralded as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all-time–a collection of Paul’s Boutique CDs could be gathering dust (and not the kind the Beasties use to rhyme about), sitting in a discount bin.

(right: Is Check Your Head the Beastie Boys’ crown jewel?)
Check Your HEAD.L.jpg

Released in 1989, Paul’s Boutique was not an instant commercial success. Those hoping for a repeat of Licensed Ill were shocked. Imagine expecting to hear a song with the immediacy of “Brass Monkey” and instead getting a track like the ultra-funky, ultra-layered, ultra-trippy “Car Thief.” Paul’s Boutique didn’t meet expectations, people at Capitol lost their jobs, and the Beastie Boys didn’t even tour to support it. Was it just a sophomore slump? Or would the Beastie Boys forever be remembered as an old-school-rap novelty act?

The Beasties took an even more radical approach on their next album. For 1992’s Check Your Head, MCA, Mike D, and Adrock decided to play instruments once again (like they did when they were teenagers), and in the process, created the most punk-rock, hip-hop album of all-time. C’mon, what’s not punk-rock about a rap group playing hardcore songs (“Time For Livin'”), enlisting the help of a keyboard-playing carpenter (Money Mark), creating instrumental jams dripping with 70’s funk (“Groove Holmes”), and purposely distorting their vocals on one of the most loved hip-hop songs of the decade (“So What’cha Want?”)?

Inexplicably, Check Your Head clicked with the times. Maybe people missed having the Beastie Boys around? Maybe freethinking bands like Nirvana–who were suddenly receiving mainstream love–made it easier for fans to accept the mixtape-like format of Check Your Head? Or maybe the shock of Paul’s Boutique helped lessen the blow for the surprise of their next release? Whatever the case, kids were wearing Beastie Boys shirts in the mall again and every college kid (and skateboarder) in the 90’s owned Check Your Head, who then decided to give Paul’s Boutique a second chance, and surprise, finally fell in love with its genius.

Besides putting the Beastie Boys back on the map, Check Your Head (with its accompanying music videos and photo shoots) also made it cool to go thrift store shopping again, turned a whole new generation of kids on to suede sneakers, made it acceptable to wear a sock cap in the summertime, brought ringer t-shirts back into style, and gave hip-hop heads a good excuse to listen to punk rock music (and vice versa).

Not only do good things come in 3’s, but Check Your Head also proves that the third time is a definitely a charm.

(BTW: We didn’t even get to talkin’ about how great the album cover is for Check Your Head…)


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.