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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…)

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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