The Purple One has gifted us not one, but two LPs this year, both on the very label “The Artist Formerly Known As” distanced himself from for years. If you’re in search of a little adventure, Art Official Age is the one for you. PlectrumElectrum is Prince’s rock record—there’s nothing to do here but have some fun.
Of course, none of this is possible without his airtight band 3rdEyeGirl, made up of guitarist Donna Grantis, drummer Hannah Ford Welton and bassist Ida Nielsen, who also played with New Power Generation. All the tracks were recorded live—if there was a notable flub, they started the song over. Some of that looseness is lost through the album’s sanitized production—then again this is Prince, not Ty Segall.
The conundrum with PlectrumElectrum is this: On one hand it’s thrilling to hear Prince and 3rdEyeGirl blast out Zeppelin riffs on songs like “Wow” and the instrumental title track, or go full-Ramone on “Marz”; on the other, the songs aren’t particularly striking or original. Essentially, if these were played by anyone other than Prince Rogers Nelson, they’d be promptly swept aside.
The best songs on PlectrumElectrum are not the rockers, but the funkers. And the slow jams. Songs “TicTacToe” and “WhiteCaps” recall some of Prince’s classic sound, with the added bonus of a muscular band performing them. That’s not a slight against the Revolution or NPG, it’s just feels like 3rdEyeGirl’s sole purpose is to funk and roll (and with no thin, ’80s production to stand in their way).
Taken as a whole, PlectrumElectrum is a fantastic rock and roll party record (although there are some more serious lyrical themes sprinkled throughout). But when you really pick apart some of the pieces, it becomes a little less interesting. But it’s Prince, and Prince gets a pass…he always does.