Beastie Boys

After a six-year hiatus, the Beastie Boys return with To the 5 Boroughs and alternately position themselves as pop culture bottom-feeders and political pedants. While anti-Bush screeds "That's It That's All" and "Time to Build" come across as heavy-handed, the terse "Open Letter to NYC" does manage to channel that city's post-9/11 resolve without sounding like a Bruce Springsteen song. When the Beasties aren't didactic, they're tapping nostalgia: The album's production has a bottom-heavy electro sheen that recalls early-'80s hip-hop; irreverent party-rocking jams such as "All Lifestyles," "Three the Hard Way" and "Ch-Check It Out" name-drop throwback icons Fred Sanford, Jabba the Hutt and Mr. Furley. It's obviously nothing new for the Boys, and much of the album does reek of self-cannibalization, but Boroughs is comfort food for the diehards -- and at this point, that's all we can expect or even want.

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Sam Chennault