Prince Rama Top 10 Hits of The End of The World

[Paw Tracks; 2012]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: psych, pop, chant, dance, avant garde, conceptual, new wave, synth pop
Others: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Grimes, Gang Gang Dance, Animal Collective, Nite Jewel

As “had to be there” bands go, Prince Rama is key. My appreciation for their music has increased considerably since watching them perform last summer at Hudson, NY’s Basilica. They are ecstatic performers and almost comical in their jubilance. Oh hell with it - they’re freaking hilarious! They’re not great songwriters by any stretch, but their goobery embracing of surreal, gimmick-friendly ritualism is refreshingly fun. At no point in their performance did they seem to be goofing off, but it was goofy nonetheless. Their costumed cavorting and undulating came off as compellingly vital to their set. Rather than making me want to balk or snicker derisively, their committed and unselfconscious display inspired a sensation of pure, rhythmically driven abandon.

I understand that these women (Tiraki and Nimai Larson) are pretty serious about what they do, with a confounding tract on their website espousing and articulating their Now Age philosophy. With all due respect to their efforts, I must confess I am mostly here for the spectacle. Thankfully, I don’t detect much negativity in their performance rites, just youthful abandon and the maturity to not undermine it with authorial remove. When I read about the concept of this album (a collection of ten made-up bands and their “hits,” culled from the brink of end times) I couldn’t help but remember the restless creativity that drove my friend and I to make up bands as kids. We loved music so much (mostly hair metal) that we wanted to experience the creative aspects it in the most immediate and total way possible. That meant each of us cooking up a handful of band names and creating discographies, album covers and track lists before even coming up with tunes. The Top 10 Hits section of their site will show you how the Prince Rama dressed themselves as the different bands and provided epitaph/profiles for each. It’s playtime stuff of the most sophisticated order and the brite, glittery grab bag of tunes carries that vibe home.

And despite what others have written, I think the tunes hold up under all the theatrics. Played at the proper volume, the songs imbue a towering miasma of spacey fascination and perhaps even kitsch-love. Kitsch in the sense that they are both enamored with and outside of 80’s synth and 60’s psych pop. It’s fetishistic like so many other pillagers of those key periods, but it is (as with Ariel Pink) too restless to be a calculated homage. Bygone musical memes are just so much brightly colored detritus in their galloping, mantra spewing transom. If they’d tried to be less Prince Rama with this project, I’m not sure it would be as fun to listen to. As ever, Prince Rama make uplifting music for weirdos, but with Top 10 Hits… they’ve aerobi-psyched their way into some pretty catchy tunes.

Still in all, they are a group that improves with the visual element (a good reason to pick up a physical copy of this record) and if one gets the chance to see ‘em they will be that much less likely to be dismissive of what they hear. And perhaps with their upcoming film, Never Forever, this blessed context will be better imparted to the hesitant.

Links: Prince Rama - Paw Tracks

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