The Hotrats: Reinventing The Beastie Boys
"(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)" — an unlikely fusion of jock-rock, hair metal and golden-age party rap — helped make Beastie Boys' License to Ill the first hip-hop album to reach No. 1 in the U.S., not to mention the bestselling rap album of the '80s. Then, after collecting their paycheck, Mike D, Ad-Rock and MCA essentially abandoned (if not outright disowned) the song, insisting it was a joke that had gone on for too long. And so the enigma goes: How do you ironically cover a song that's already a parody of itself?
"Earnestly" seems to be the answer, at least based on the version of "Fight for Your Right" from The Hotrats' debut album, Turn Ons — a collection of 12 covers authored by Supergrass members Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffey. On paper, an acoustic-based, falsetto-laden revision of a frat-boy anthem looks disastrous, but Coombes and Goffrey tackle the song with inspired poise. Beastie Boys' angst-ridden shouting has been repurposed into understated melodies, with Goffey's propulsive backbeat picking up the slack. Meanwhile spacious production on the piano and a few well-placed percussive textures (yes, there's a cowbell, and it works) lend the song an expansive, loping quality, duly showcasing the talents of producer Nigel Godrich.
Perhaps most impressively, though, The Hotrats' members preserve the strain of guileless energy that makes the original fun, while ditching the brashness that made it age so quickly. We're all still compelled to defend our rights here, but this time, the ironic keg stand is out of the equation.
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