Out there

The artist still known
The Gold Experience
Warner Bros./NPG

Written off as dead or dying by those who proclaimed him a genius just a few years ago, Prince (pronounced "Prince") is now just another R&B artist who releases albums with prolific regularity; there's no longer any hype or hoopla surrounding the release of his albums, merely the shrug of inevitable disappointment from the non-believers. But don't believe the lack of hype: The former Rogers Nelson hasn't given up the funk or the fight.

With race on the brain and pussy on his mind, Prince hasn't changed much in 15 years, but at least he's given in to the demons that threatened to kick his scrawny ass around the time of Lovesexy; he's given into the "Pussy Control" he always tried to deny back when he was such a spiritual misogynist. Prince is at his best when talking about his fave subject--sex, with himself or a willing partner or 10--whether it's in between the beats-per-minute grooves ("Now," the hilariously self-indulgent "Endorphinmachine") or the slick ballads that'd taste too sweet in anyone else's mouth ("The Most Beautiful Girl in the World").

But the real breakthrough comes with "Shy," an acoustic number about a young girl who passes her gang initiation by committing a revenge killing. Kicking off with a Sly Stone riff, the song isn't preachy, isn't melodramatic, but spoken in a matter-of-fact tone so unlike the hyperbolic Prince: "She said, 'I passed my initiation/A friend of mine, he got killed and in retaliation I shot the boy--pop! pop! twice in the head/No regrets/No sorrow.'" It's a work of subtle power--softer than any ballad, harder than any funk.

Hello, young livers
Scream, Dracula, Scream!
Rocket from the Crypt
Interscope Records

"Born in '69" is the answer song to an entire generation of young rockers who take for granted all the things they never had but pretend to own and understand: "Your inspiration is a memory you know you never had." Which is wise, and somehow hypocritical. The noise-pop Rocket from the Crypt may be the accessible ha-ha flipside to the noise-noise Drive Like Jehu, but that only means every other song makes a stab at owning up to a melody (rockabilly doesn't count, farfisa-beat does) while the rest are just horns and a smirk, a pile of riffs and snarled lyrics and piledriver beats and other shit you've heard so many times before you can't tell if you heard it here first or last.

--Robert Wilonsky

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky