245: Funknroll

Plectrumelectrum (2014) / Art Official Age (2014)
The song that comes in two distinct flavours: Aerosmith-lite and hyphy. I care nothing for the Plectrumelectrum former, and everything (despite its unpopularity) for the Art Official Age latter. Prince and (producer) Joshua dose up on Swizz Beatz, steal his radar pings and throw in guitar stabs for fun. It’s a recipe that could easily go wrong but to these ears they totally kill it. And that’s before we hear the final minute! If, like Cher, I could turn back time I’d jump to before I heard this remix, because to relive the unexpected switch-up for the first time again would be a thing of joy. After three minutes of them getting hyphy with it, the synths arrive, exploding the track into an epic EDM stadium-filler; a Deadmaus career condensed into a 60-second showreel. In the context of the album, it’s slightly jarring (the sudden gearshift to the amazing but simmering-boil of Time afterwards is abrupt) but in isolation, it’s a hip-height firecracker. This version of Funknroll is a powerful reminder of Prince’s relevancy while his contemporaries languish in their dotage. He promises to “get it turned up, get it out of control” and damn right he delivers. You probably disagree, but then again you probably like your ice cream vanilla and your pizzas margarita. Like the man himself says: “get into the rhythm, it’s good for your soul”.

400: Stopthistrain

Plectrumelectrum (2014)
Although the lyrics describe a sleepless train ride, the sparkling yet soporific beat sways like a nomadic camel journey into the Land of Nod. A baby-monitor melody twinkles over the lulling effects of Hannah’s vocals and Ida’s bass, and the resulting feeling is one of all-enveloping, loving security – like when you’re six and going on holiday, being carried from your bed in the middle of the night towards the warmed-up, waiting car, briefly waking in your parent’s arms to see them beaming down through gentle shushes which drift you back off into blissful, womb-like sleep. A lumbering, slumbering two-man chariot of unconditional love. How many rock albums can you say give that feeling? Of course the lyrics describe the opposite. Heartbreak. Loss. Pain. But they just heighten the protective musical embrace. It can be a nasty and brutish Hobbesian world out there so lets surrender to these sheltering moments of comfort, letting the plaintive words fall close, like rain on tent fabric.

481: Boytrouble

Plectrumelectrum (2014)
By all accounts 3rdeyegirl are a fierce live act, holding their own against Prince’s more venerated backing groups. But in the studio, the raw energy is tamed and can show up a lack of experimentation. Growing out of this dusty, rocky ground, however, are occasional flowerings of R&B pop, like this head-nodding, funk-hop cactus with a guest rap somewhere between Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes and Princess Superstar. Having championed TLC in the 90s and calling them his favourite group at the 1995 MTV music awards, it’s not surprising Prince is a fan of Left Eye’s rap-style and Lizzo delivers with delta force dexterity. Fellow The Chalice group members also provide vocals (including several bars of what sounds like Samuel Beckett’s Not I reciting advertisement disclaimers) but it’s the freedom of 3rdeyegirl throwing off their hard-rock shackles for the first time on the album that really lifts Boytrouble into the troposphere. A brisk monsoon of funky guitar licks and bright-eyed bass that clears the air and makes the second half of Plectrumelectrum a more interesting experience.

488: Wow

Plectrumelectrum (2014)
Some nicely crafted, good ol’ rock n’ roll, swaying with whiskey and vibes. This would be the zenith of many a Hot New Thing’s rocketing career, before the implosion into nostalgia and good times. But this is Prince we’re talking about and he has a mountain of seraphic output that looms over such climes, so Wow gets to live around the foothills, getting teenagers drunk on its worldly bonhomie, handing out moonshine and free hugs.