171: Clouds

Art Official Age (2014)
After an absence of four years (the longest gap in his discography) Art Official Age was Prince’s high-profile comeback, seducing attentions of the press with Warner Bros reunion headlines. It is a truth universally acknowledged that an ageing rocker in the possession of a hyped comeback album is always likely to disappoint. Fires dampen; tastes get conservative; weirdness dissipates. The spirit may be willing but the flesh isn’t match-fit and innovation gets dashed on risk-averse rocks while session musicians clockwatch. The script was written to disappoint but Prince said “Fuck. That. Shit!” Or whatever the nearest non-sweary equivalent is (“Forget. That. Applesauce?”) and delivered a sci-fi themed concept album which surprises at every turn. Space ballad Clouds is a future-funk shuffler that sees the singer being woken up from a cryogenic state after 45 years, into an age that “does not require time”. And it’s not just the singer that’s visiting from another era: relationship advice; plaintive guitar solo; young, attractive protégé; Linn drum. All your 80s favourites reworked into something new. Not your bag? He released a safer band-led album on the same day too so fill your boots.