Thursday, October 23, 2014
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: PRINCE - ART OFFICIAL AGE/PRINCE & 3RDEYEGIRL - PLECTRUMELECTRUM
Prince was always, what's the polite word, idiosyncratic? Even at his most commercial in the 80's, he was an enigmatic wonder. Back then you could pretty much figure out what he was singing about, whether raspberry berets or crying doves. It just got wacky after awhile. I don't know what the sun looks like in his paisley-purple universe, but I'm guessing it ain't yellow.
Here's the thing; don't even hope for a normal lyric anymore. There are no easy to understand songs here, verse-verse-chorus-solo, no way. What is on these two discs is fabulous though, wildly inventive and super-sounding. And there is grand rock and funk and roll too, real Prince flights of fancy with awesome guitar. There is also some of the most advanced studio trickery going on as well, audio manipulation and general messing-about that proves the master is still at the controls. So dive in.
The two new albums are wildly different. If you are less adventurous and want your rock/funk Prince, it's the 3rdEyeGirl album you need, Prince's new all-women trio, all fabulous players and singers. For the most part, this is the basic stuff, grand though. Prince shares the spotlight nicely, giving lead vocals on several cuts to the others, such as the funkified Boytrouble, and the lovely Whitecaps. When Prince is singing, he gets the benefits of excellent backing vocals. This is my favourite Prince album in a long time.
The one credited to just him, Art Official Age, is a lot more challenging, but quite rewarding as well. Working with 3rdEyeGirl and producer Joshua Welton, this set is Prince being playful, taking the songs and turning them inside-out in the studio. Most here have his vocals sped up or slowed down, sometimes to the point of the Chipmunk effect, and other times so low you can't tell its him, or even human. The songs are space-age, cut-up and reassembled. It's actually quite a striking feat, and Prince shows how these techniques can make excellent music too. I much prefer the band album, just because I like things traditional, but it's easy to marvel at his experimental side as well.