Multicoloured artwork, a title that promises to seize the day, and a new production SWAT team dedicated to bringing in “direct agression!” Could this be an ass whipping, good-times new direction for the critically acclaimed Beastie Boys?
Not today, bone daddy. Present Tense finds the group inhabiting the twilight between artily arranged ambience and mildly concerned existentialism. Wild it is not, tastefully relaxing it is; at its best the record resembles a beard stroking itself autominously to the Drive soundtrack (‘Simple Beautiful Truth’), serves up shape shifting electronica on a funky back foot (‘Daughters’) and delivers Blade Runner fuzz-synths gliding around Antony Hegarty-style soul epochs (‘Wanderlust’).
We’re told that living in the moment is all about parachute jumping, slurping Diet Coke and posting cunning ideas onto Vine, but – as this record seems to more accurately summarise – it’s trickier than that, not least when the past seems so perfect. These are poetic themes, meditatively delivered, experimentally contextualised and (on closer ‘Palace’) not without a warm, beating heart.
Critics and fans have rightfully slobbered all over the Beasts once again, though in my minority opinion the fun factor is a little low, the humour factor non-existent and the colours a little too bleached. Yet Present Tense is a thoughtful record; and a pristinely arty one too.