Prince can be called many things: weird, unpredictable, innovative, genius, and other things. But one thing he has always been is generous, especially with his music. He was one of the first music superstars to provide new albums on the Internet, released 3-4 disc collections of new or unheard cuts, and his last album was available for free exclusively in European tabloids and newspapers. Considering the artist formally known as The Artist has made 10 platinum albums out of 32 in a nearly 40 year career, you’d think he’s some guy passing out unmarked discs at a garage sale and not one of the biggest and most influential artists of all time. It’s been 4 years since Prince has put music to a record, but he’s stayed busy playing intimate surprise shows, chatting with Arsenio Hall, and eating pancakes with Zooey Deschanel. More notably, Prince has been playing shows with his new all-girl backing band 3RDEYEGIRL. Now, Prince is giving the world twice the beat in two different ways with a new solo album and 3RDEYEGIRL’s album debut. So what fits Prince better: rock and roll frontman or the purple funk freak the world knows and loves?
Well, if you have a far reaching knowledge of Prince, you’d know that he is an excellent guitar player (along with all of the other basic instruments he can play). Because of his original stance as an R&B legend, that skill hasn’t been highlighted as often as he would like. With 3RDEYEGIRL, he’s able to really flex his fingers with a six-string. On Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL’s new (confusingly titled) album “PLECTRUMELECTRUM,” Prince shreds his distorted, fuzzed-out guitar like he’s Jimmy Page on “Pretzelbodylogic,” “Fixurlifeup,” and “Funknroll.” 3RDEYEGIRL themselves sync up with the purple one very well. Bassist Ida Nielsen slaps each note of “Boytrouble” and make great rhythm sections with drummer Hannah Ford Welton on “Stopthistrain.” The group as a whole give off a great Led Zeppelin meets Sly & the Family Stone sound, but manages to slow things down for intimate moments on “Whitecaps” and tear through cuts like “Anotherlove.” Prince sounds more free and fun on “PLECTRUMELECTRUM” than he has in quite some time.
Prince’s solo disc “Art Official Age” is another story. Here, he never kicks things into high gear. His solo take on “Funknroll” always manages to forget to turn up to 11 when it needs to, while the title track and “The Gold Standard” has too many vocal effects and not enough killer breakdowns to make 5-star tracks. In fact, “Art Official Age” shines brightest when Prince slows things down. Take “Breakfast Can Wait” for instance, where Prince makes sex before pancakes sound like the ultimate come-on, especially with the use of less vocal effects, a drum beat and smooth guitar. “U Know” on the other hand has Prince sing-rapping into a vocoder with a skittering beat to back his purple freshness. “What It Feels Like” has Prince laying out his desire for his future girl, while “Breakdown” has Prince looking back on lost time. It’s a good record, but half the songs here feel like something’s missing.
Where “Art Official Age” shines on slow jams, “PLECTRUMELECTRUM” burns through funk-rock like there’s no tomorrow. If 3RDEYEGIRL is Prince’s new musical direction, it sounds as electric as his guitar he probably has turned up to 11. Out of the new releases, “PLECTRUMELECTRUM” seems to stand out more for its volume and spirit. “Art Official Age” has its moments that prove Prince is still smoother than anyone will ever be, be his upbeat tracks need more authentic instruments and not Pro Tools. The world will love Prince either way (it’s impossible not to like at least one of his songs), but 3RDEYEGIRL may be the vehicle he needs to release his inner-Hendrix. Either way, Prince loves music so much, he’ll give it to the world in two ways, God bless him.
Final Verdict (“Art Official Age”): 3.5 out of 5 stars
Final Verdict (“PLECTRUMELECTRUM”): 4 out of 5 stars