Prince Rama

Top Ten Hits of the End of the World

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On 2011's Trust Now, Prince Rama honed itself down to the duo of Taraka and Nimai Larson, with help from engineer and sometime-guitarist Scott Colburn. The end result was a witchy, neo-gothic, psychedelic dance music full of tripped-out jams and quasi-mystical kookiness that worked its loopy magic from beginning to end. On Top 10 Hits of the End of the World, the Larsons have tried to tighten up and make it conceptual. (See their "now age" website for far more than you will ever need to read about it.) The schtick here is that PR claim to cover the "pop hits" of ten imaginary bands that all died during the apocalypse by "channeling" them. (The paper booklet even has the scent of basement mold to add to the vibe.) The fake band names are amusing: the Guns of Dubai, Rage Peace, Taohaus, Hyparxia, etc. The "songs" on Top 10 Hits of the End of the World seem to aspire to a peyote-induced vision that melds Bananarama, latter-day Siouxsie & the Banshees, and Hayzie Fantayzee with a little Kajagoogoo and late Zodiac Mindwarp thrown in for kicks. If they had pulled it off, it would have been an achievement. It might have worked if the Larsons had been capable of writing anything that resembled a real pop hook -- past, present, future, or otherwise. Prince Rama already owned a sprawling musical language: a Brooklyn-baked, acid-drenched, "jam band" style that eschews the predominance of traditional guitar and drum-based aesthetics in favor of tribal digi-drums, layers of Casio presets, orgiastic roto-toms, analog synths, and enough reverb and digital delay to disorient a monk in deep meditation. They are so tied to that sound that they can't escape it. In trying to create a post-apocalyptic retro pop without their trademark excesses on display, they come off as little more than an unnecessarily edited, hollowed-out imitation of themselves. That said, some of these tunes work: the jittery "So Destroyed," with its multivalent drum loops, organ vamps, and memorable chanted melody is a contender. Likewise their half-baked attempt at Bollywood on "Radhamadhava" contains a certain naive charm. But the post-disco of "Those Who Live for Love Will Live Forever" and the faux-new wave dub effects on "Now Age" just fall flat. Unfortunately, on Top 10 Hits of the End of the World, PR were so involved with their campy concept, they neglected to write and record music capable of carrying its weight.

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