Review: Prince, Art Official Age & PLECTRUMELECTRUM
September 29, 2014
Being a Prince fan can sometimes feel like being on a roller coaster. The highs are out of this world, but the lows are inevitable. For every great record like 3121, you’ll get a less-than-stellar album like Planet Earth, just one year later. But believe me, his two latest albums, ART OFFICIAL AGE and PLECTRUMELECTRUM, are true highs in the Purple Yoda’s 36-year career. Why? These new albums are weird, funky, dazzling, baffling, meticulously produced, full of catchy tunes, sexy, joyous, crazy, energetic and they rock HARD.
In other words, classic Prince. Let’s dig in.
ART OFFICIAL AGE
Space-themed funk concept album about the future, with trippy ballads at the end.
1. Art Official Cage: The worst song on the album, but it does a great job in setting you up for what’s to come. It’s got a “play this in the club really LOUD!” vibe to it, with modern-day synths all over the track. A little corny, though. Skip to the last minute of the song to get to the good stuff. Or just skip to track 2
2. Clouds: Only Prince can do a song like this, and he’s been doing it since the 1970s. It’s got that warm guitar / layered vocal thing going for it. And, of course, a female voice comes in and says that she’s put Prince in “suspended animation” for 45 years. Of course. Great track. As my friend Charlton said, “the funk is strong with this one.”
3. Breakdown: Super emotional, super catchy, super melodic song. Wouldn’t have sounded out of place as a B-side during the Purple Rain era. Yep. DIG IT!
4. The Gold Standard: MAN, OH MAN. Where did this come from? Is it 1987? Is this The Black Album? Prince, no man should be this funky at 56. CLASSIC. Good message, too – “you don’t have to be wild / you don’t have to be rude“ to have a good time. word.
5. U Know: Hmmmm. I have a love/hate relationship with this song, but it is another modern-sounding jam that wouldn’t sound out of place on the radio. It sounds really great within the context of the album, though, but … I’ll probably end up skipping it with future listens.
6. Breakfast Can Wait: The one. We’ve heard this before, and it just keeps getting more funky with each listen. Another classic, masterful piece of pop/funk.
7. This Could B Us: MAN, OH MAN. What a melodic track! Please, R&B radio, play this. Now. The vocal delivery is on point, that hook is like ear crack, the bass hits HARD. Love. This.
8. What It Feels Like: At this point in the record, you’re probably thinking “what else can he do to impress?” Welp, “What it feels like” is a subtle duet with Andy Allo that will slip into your subconscious after the first listen. An infectious groove.
9. affirmation I & II: Contains one of my favorite moments of the album, even though it’s just an interlude. The female voice from Track 2 returns to tie everything together. And it blends perfectly into …
10. Way Back Home: MAN, OH MAN. Emotional, powerful, lyrically personal, deep, superior, love.
11. FUNKNROLL: Poo. This feels out of place, and is a far inferior version of a song that appears on PLECTRUMELECTRUM. He’s trying for the clubs again. You can dance to it. But … eh. Skip.
12. Time: MAN OH MAN. How does he do this? Serious. It’s a slow jam with a lot of personality. A killer vocal delivery from Andy Allo. An effortless groove.
13. affirmation III: SAY WHAT? a continuation of Way Back Home and a real artistic statement. Much in the same way that Positivity was on Lovesexy. Ish. Just listen to it.
BEST LYRIC: “There are no such words as me or mine. Words of this nature were introduced into society as a control mechanism … ”
BEST SONG: Too many to choose from. Today it’s “Time”
WORST SONG: Art Official Cage
Raw rock album with his band 3rdEYEGIRL. Not tied together by any theme, but sonically consistent.
1. WOW: MAN OH MAN. WHAT AN ALBUM OPENER! (caps lock was on, sorry). WOW! WHAT AN ALBUM OPENER! Every bit as good as the Liv Warfield version of the same song. Genius. Prince’s vocals really shine here, but he’s understated. If this song was on The Gold Experience, we would have heard a few screams in the middle of the breakdown. Now? He’s letting the music speak. Dig it.
2. PRETZELBODYLOGIC: I’ve always loved this song. It rocks super hard, and is definitely reminiscent of Black Sabbath. Give me more of this, please. Hannah’s drumming reminds me of Zeppelin’s John Bonham. It’s also deceptively catchy.
3. AINTTURNINROUND: Hannah’s vocals on the song are a little annoying, but the melody and the structure of the song is out of this world. I especially love the ending, with the Bob George voice. This band rocks really hard. I also like how, at this point in the album, you know that you are in for a weird rock trip. No holds barred.
4. PLECTRUMELECTRUM: YES PLEASE. This band is awesome – super tight, even in a difficult groove. Hard to replicate. I’ve always loved instrumental rock songs – I hope that they tackle some post-rock type stuff. Prince and 3rdEYEGIRL doing Explosions in the Sky? Would love to hear that. Ok, moving on …
5. WHITECAPS: LOVE. THIS. From the second I heard this song, I was hooked. I agree with some of the people who say this is like Fleetwood Mac with an edge. It’s an emotional song, too – the way Hannah and Prince sing “It’s windy now” gives me chills. A++++
6. FIXURLIFEUP: I’m still not sure about this song. I could honestly take it or leave it. It feels about 10 years too late, you know? The message is awesome, though. Every lyric is on point. But eh, skip it …
7. BOYTROUBLE: WOO! I almost feel like I shouldn’t like this song. I mean … it’s a little silly, right? Then why does it Funk so hard? It reminds me of something he would have written for Vanity 6. Replace the (kick ass) guitar lick with a synth lick. The live drums with the Linn. Put it out in 1982. Funk. And the solo? Say what?!?! Too good. I’ve gone back to the track a few times. Dig. It.
8. STOPTHISTRAIN: Another surprisingly great track. Catchy and radio-friendly, but weird. I guess that describes this whole album, right? Hannah’s vocals are really good here, too.
9. ANOTHERLOVE: YES YES YES YES. Prince takes lead vocals again and … YES. This is the band’s version of the Alice Smith song. Sorry, Alice – it’s Prince’s song now.
10. TICTACTOE: I was looking forward to hearing this song the most, because I heard it was inspired by the Cocteau Twins. It’s a beautiful song, with amazing vocal harmonies. Sounds like a lost Wendy and Lisa song from the Parade era. This is a good, good, good thing.
11. MARZ: Comes and goes like a bomb. Fierce track, but I wish it was longer.
12. FUNKNROLL: QUITE POSSIBLY THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME. Ok, that’s an overstatement, but I can’t. stop. listening. to. it. It’s playful in the same way that “Play in the Sunshine” was. (Actually, it sounds pretty good on the Sign O the Times album as track #2. Try it.). Again, this sounds effortless … like the band is having a lot of fun in the studio. This is the groove. Best song out of the two new albums.
BEST LYRIC: “A girl with a guitar is 12 times better than another crazy band of boys / Trying to be a star / When you’re just another brick in the misogynistic wall of noise”
BEST SONG: FUNKNROLL
WORST SONG: AINTTURNINROUND? Maybe?