Capitol - 2004 - 42 minutes

Where do the years go? The Beastie Boys have an image for every decade - massively successful pimple-faced idiots in the 80s, multi-talented arbiters of cool in the 90s.

The Millennium has been and gone. New York has had a hard few years and the city's favourite squeaky-voiced rappers are now grey-haired and vaguely wrinkled. So what form will the Beastie Boys take in the 21st Century?

The last studio album, 'Hello Nasty', was a sprawling mixture of styles and their least cohesive record yet, despite its many fine moments. Acoustic strumalongs like 'I Don't Know' hinted that they now saw their future, as musicians, in a proper band (yikes!).

Something must have changed their mind in the intervening years.

'To the 5 Boroughs' is a return to the days when hip-hop was a tinny, electro beat banging out of a boom-box on the side of the street. The songs are littered with samples from New York's Hip-Hop Hall Of Fame, with LL Cool J and Public Enemy rubbing shoulders with Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC.

The trio take over production duties and digital beats are the only thing on their minds - there's no funk, hardcore, psychedelia, lounge-crooning or Buddhist monks on here.

'Right Right Now Now' takes a hint of jazz with an Axelrod-style organ minimally stretched and looped into an old-style break, while the celestial whirrings of Kraftwerk haunt 'It Takes Time To Build'. 'Triple Trouble' is so old-school it's based on 'Rapper's Delight' and features one of the Boys doing his best Slick Rick impersonation.

To their credit, they don't squeeze the life out of these enjoyable but limited musical ideas. A lot of the tracks are only two minutes long and the album clocks in at an enjoyably brief 42 minutes - other rappers take note!

Lyrically the Boys are showing their age. Hefty mortgages and prams in the hall mean that they are lot more concerned about politics than three brattish hipsters really ought to be. And guess what? George W gets a sound tongue-lashing throughout.

But in the end, they return to the city they love so well. 'Paul's Boutique' was so crammed with urban detail it was almost Joycean. Now that love affair seems slightly post-traumatic. "Since 9-11 we're still living and loving life that we've been given. Ain't nothing going to take that away from us. We're looking pretty and gritty 'cause in the city we trust."

This might not be the trio's greatest album but its still packs a serious punch.

Luke McManus

Tracklisting: Ch-Check It Out - Right Right Now Now - 3 The Hard Way - It Takes Time to Build - Rhyme the Rhyme Well - Triple Trouble - Hey F*?# You - Oh Word? - That's It That's All - All Life Styles - Shazam! - An Open Letter to NYC - Crawlspace - The Brouhaha - We Got The