Years of frustration for Prince fans, involving the purple one’s erratic output, strange promotional gambits and ambivalent attitude to the internet, fell away earlier this year when he embarked on his barnstorming Hit & Run tour with new backing trio 3rdEyeGirl.
Prince: Art Official Age
* * *
3rdEyeGirl: Plectrum Electrum
* * *
Now, having resolved his beef with old label Warners, recovered the master tapes of some of his classic early 80s albums and re-signed to the label, he has released two albums simultaneously, one solo and one with 3rdEyeGirl. But maybe hold that sigh of relief.
This is a patchy double act, brought to you with an overabundance of upper case lettering and, in the case of PlectrumElectrum, an aversion to the space bar. Art Official Age is a pretty slick continuous concept suite in which Prince wakes up 45 years in the future. But it is not up to par with, say, Janelle Monae’s Prince-indebted The ArchAndroid. Student has trumped teacher.
Trying on a succession of studio styles for size, opening track Art Official Cage sounds like a bad disco novelty record, before giving way to the leaner groove of Clouds, overwrought slow jam Breakdown and the standard funky electro of The Gold Standard.
Breakfast Can Wait is a witty euphemistic come-on which shows that this Jehovah’s Witness can still make entertaining sex music. However, the rueful Time suggests the love life is not going quite to plan; he seeks solace in the cod conceptual ambient soul of Affirmation III when what he really needs to do is parlay the tantalising, electrifying glam intro to Funknroll into a satisfying freakout.
If Art Official Age is his studio “experiment”, PlectrumElectrum, recorded live with 3rdEyeGirl, is more straightforward, consistent and ultimately underwhelming in execution. The title track is a serviceable heavy blues rock jam with moments of molten riffola. Elsewhere, he often cedes vocal duties to the girls and there are some half-baked genre numbers, including lame quasi-reggae track Stopthistrain, the snotty electro punk of Marz and dalliances with floaty 70s-style MOR on Whitecaps and Tictactoe.
He pays tribute to his group on Fixurlifeup with the feminist view that “a girl with a guitar is 12 times better than another crazy band o boys”. Certainly, 3rdEyeGirl deliver an alternative, more robust and party-hard version of Funknroll to round off the album but they and their frontman never quite rip it up the way we know they can.