Prince Rama Top 10 Hits of the End of the World(Paw Tracks) Buy it from Insound
Prince Rama is a very modest band. That’s why for their latest release, they decided to make a concept album in which they channel the spirits of ten different fictional bands – all with names like “Black Elk Speaks” and “I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E.” – who each had a top ten hit on the eve of the apocalypse and subsequently perished. And in case you’re still confused by this, you can find almost all of this information depicted right on the albums cover.
Ok, so clearly this is not all as subtle as my unnecessary sarcasm implied, but I highly doubt that this was a major concern for the group in the first place when constructing their new album, Top 10 Hits of the End of the World. Complete with flamboyant press photos and vibrant back stories ranging from disco sex cults to computer-generated utopian rockers, experimental pop extroverts Prince Rama, consisting of sisters Taraka & Nimai Larson, approach the concept of their new album with the detail and imagination of a group of children creating their own comic book heroes, with each personality more ridiculous then the next. It’s the kind of album concept that can be quite polarizing – one that could seem either totally bloated or unnecessary to some but also unique and perfectly timed, what with the Mayan calendar ticking closer to the end Nonetheless, one very important question stands out no matter how you feel about the concept: Where does the music fit into all of this glamor and chaos?
Previous to Top 10 Hits, the Brooklyn duo were known for their dense, yet convoluted take on the lo-fi bedroom pop sound that has taken greater prominence in the past few years, blending various genres, from cheesy disco to gloomy goth rock to droning Arabic pop, into one swirling, cosmic wall of reverb. Incidentally, the greatest feat accomplished on Top 10 Hits is how Prince Rama manages to correct these past mistakes by fine tuning their sound into ten firmly condensed pop songs. Nearly all of their most eccentric elements are still dealt in spades here, but the added focus helps the group pick and choose which of these personalities they want to better emphasize for each track, whether it be the sparkling 80’s cheese of Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever, the Bollywood-inspired pop of Radhamahava, or the sultry easy-listening of Welcome To the Now Age. Though these tracks are ultimately drowned enough reverb to make everything less intelligible than it should, there’s no denying that these are some of the most focused songs Prince Rama have written yet, despite the foreboding amount of disarray these songs are supposed to be hinting at.
This added focus also leaves plenty of room for some serious hooks to take the spotlight, and, as any list of hit songs should, Prince Rama uncompromisingly fire off these hooks with restless intensity. Many songs, including tracks like No Way Back and the supercharged, John Maus-reminiscent Exercise Ecstasy, present some of the more infectious hooks on the album with a startling sense of immediacy that demands the listener’s attention. Some tracks, on the other hand, choose to bide their time for locking in the listener. Such is the case with Receive, a slow-building track that’s rather forgettable until triumphantly building into a frenzied celebration of disco madness near the tracks end. Unfortunately, not all songs shine with such vitality, as tracks like the lackluster We Will Fall in Love Again and the drowsy Fire Sacrifice make for little more than some uninspired nostalgic pop.
This all leads up to the question of what any of this has to do with the albums rather excessive concept, which is where things become disappointing for the album. For a collection of songs that are supposed to be carrying the weight of an imminent apocalypse on their shoulders, there are very few moments to be found on Top 10 Hits that seem to be affected by this burden. The urgent, Middle Eastern tinged Blade of Austerity and the panic-induced chanting found in the outro of Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever do a pretty good job of capturing the downcast finality of “the end,” and the albums lo-fi production helps bring aboard a haunting atmosphere that suggests there’s tragedy behind even the bounciest tracks. Aside from these elements, however, there is little about Top 10 Hits that suggests that the album on the whole is anything more than a passable yet not entirely memorable collection of gauzy bedroom pop songs that barely separate themselves from the countless other acts following in the footsteps of more innovative predecessors like Ariel Pink and John Maus. Top 10 Hits of the End of the World shows some commendable growth for Prince Rama in relation to their previous work, but not even as bizarre of a concept they’ve constructed could truly make the duo stand out amongst their peers.
Ultimately, it seemed like Prince Rama had a lot of fun when it came to working on their latest album. The energy put into writing elaborate back stories, designing absurd costumes, deciding how many “x’s” belong in “The Metaphysixxx,” and determining how cheesy their album cover should look clearly show a restless level of creativity and ambition found in the two sisters, and one that, when harnessed correctly, could result in some incredibly interesting and fun music. Let’s just hope the world doesn’t come to an end before Prince Rama figures this last detail out.12 November, 2012 - 14:38 — Peter Quinton