I mentioned that even Prince hasn't sounded like Prince for a while now when I reviewed the latest album from Jamie Lidell. I said that without really having listened properly to any of his recent releases but I happened to see his purpleness emblazoned on the front of the Daily Mirror on Saturday (10th July) and realised that his latest album was being given away with paper and that this would be the only method of its release. 2.5 million copies were made and the paper costs 65p. I don't know how that makes any kind of financial sense, especially as Prince has barred iTunes from stocking his music as they won't offer any kind of advance (!), but he seems to think this is the future and he's very happy to be away from worries about the charts etc. Part of me wondered whether it was simply because it wasn't any good (Tony Parsons in a barely believable piece of puff writing, providing the Mirror with its exclusive first review, called it Prince's best album in 23 years) so I made my first and only ever purchase of the Mirror to find out. Short version: It aint that great. It isn't totally awful, there are even some hints at a genuine return to form, but there are also some moments, usually lyrical rather than musical, that made me want to curl up and die for him.
Prince has never been great at album covers
But this latest is truly hideous, looking like something from a Prince fan's GCSE art project. It all adds to the feeling that this is a slightly cheap production and some of the music within only adds to that worry. Things start off relatively well and with a distinctly retro feel on Compassion. Electric drums and keyboards kick to a rhythm similar to Let's Go Crazy, there are even electric handclaps but as soon as he starts singing the wheels start to come off. Portentous doesn't even begin to describe a track where 'zero point approaches' and 'dreams become reality' and the polar ice caps even feature. Pretentious might be closer. Endlessly Beginning at least wears its pretension on its sleeve as Prince riffs on the hidden nature of the universe. Future Soul Song is a slow spiritual swamped in 'oo-ee-oo' and 'sha-la-la' backing vocals that aren't quite enough to hide yet more awful lyrics. Sticky Like Glue threatens to be actually rather good, funky guitars and sexy vocals build up a nice atmosphere, but then the unthinkable occurs and Prince begins to rap. Yes, rap. I'll leave that with you and move swiftly on.
Act of God is weighted down by socially conscious lyrics that remind us that 'freedom 'aint free' and even refers to Sadam and his non-existent weapons, instantly dating the song. Lavaux lightens things up musically before Walk In Sand provides a half decent ballad. That's followed by Sea of Everything, an after-hours love song with a heavy dose of his new-found spirituality. The album ends (kind of) with Everybody Loves Me. I mentioned Let's Go Crazy at the beginning of this review. That is a great party song. Everybody Loves Me wishes it was, but isn't. The reason I said it 'kind of' ends the album is because there's a hidden track. After seventy odd 5-second tracks of silence we have what might be called Laydown where the 'purple Yoda' provides perhaps the most interesting track on the whole album. Why it's hidden away like that I don't know but by then it's too late I'm afraid. This isn't his best album in 23 years and the frightening truth is that the Mirror's cover price of 65p might be just about right.