>A Few Words On Prince

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So is Prince cool anymore? Like, in today’s modern music scene, does he have an audience?

I’m not talking about his public persona, because as most of us know, Prince has been all over the place since Musicology came out back in ’04. In fact, nowadays he’s been acting as modern music’s ultimate pop badass, exerting his in-your-face attitude (kind of an overused term, but it describes him perfectly) into almost every little guest-appearance he’s made. When Prince pops in unexpectedly on a TV show, he’s not just there to plug his album and have some fun – he is there to prove, without argument, that he is better than you.

I mean, we all know about his sizzlin’ opening performance at the 2004 Grammys with Beyonce, but that’s only a fraction of how much ass Prince has ruled in recent years. That same year he performed “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as a tribute to George Harrison for his Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, performing with the likes of Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne; while they played most of the song in standard reverent fashion, Prince decided to rip the shit and perform a blazing guitar solo that outshone everybody else there. Then there was his last-minute performance on the finale of American Idol, in which he came on unannounced, performed two songs from his new album, and left immediately, his mission of proving himself better than any of the finalists accomplished with little to no effort. Simon Cowell was reportedly very upset, but he’s a hack so who gives a shit.

Oh yeah, almost forgot his little spat with the Foo Fighters. They covered his song “Darling Nikki,” so Prince basically told them to fuck off and perform their own fucking songs (so to speak). Then, as retaliation, he performed a cover of the Foo Fighter’s “Best of You” during his totally badass 2007 Super Bowl performance, a cover that even the Foo Fighters’ drummer thought was better than their own. Oh, and before that performance, he did a Super Bowl press conference in which he cut off a reporter’s question with yet another badass cover of “Johnny B. Goode”… ok, I don’t need to go into any more detail here. The list of Prince’s recent elusive badassery goes on and on. When he performs, we are his music slaves.

But that just brings me back to my earlier question – is Prince hip anymore? I would say that if you’re a cool 20-something music fan nowadays you’re either way into pop/R ‘n B/emo or you’re an indie kid, and I don’t think that Prince’s music would appeal to either. In my eyes there are two reasons for this. First and foremost, Prince’s music – specifically his 80’s output – is unabashedly tied to its time. By that I mean, when you listen to “Purple Rain” you can be sure as fuck that it is an 80’s album – you’ve got synthesizers up the wazoo, distorted voices, filtered guitars, the whole nine yards. This puts off a lot of people my age because to us, the 80’s is still irreparably associated with shitty, cheesy music (unless the Killers do it, then it’s cool and retro), so hearing Prince’s heavy funk-synth R’nB would probably not appeal to most Shins fans who like their music boring yet intelligently droll. Hell, sometimes he doesn’t even bother with anything BUT synths, like on “Kiss” or “Delirious”. What self-respecting 2000s music fan would wanna listen to THAT corny shit?

Secondly there is the fact that Prince sings about sex. All the time. That’s all there is to it. He is an impish black man who loves to get laid, morning noon and night. And he DOES get laid morning noon and night, and he sings about it in almost every song he has ever recorded. And not just normal kindsa sex neither! Sure, he’s recorded simple love songs, but he’s also got songs about mutual masturbation, fucking his sister, luring a woman away from her wedding and eating her out, and so on and so forth. The lyrics to his song Darling Nikki are actually single-handedly responsible for the creation of the Parents Music Resource Center – that’s how filthy he is. To alter a Tim and Eric quote a little bit, Prince can fuck ANYTHING. And he will, and has! Angels! Demons! Women! Animals! His sister!

Oh, he also likes to dress like this on his album covers. Yeeeeeeesh.

But yeah, point being, not many hipster-indie kids would find Prince’s constant sex mewing to be very appealing, nor would many cool modern R’nB fans who like their music slow and formulaic. Maybe they’re just scared of Prince’s absolutely raw, ambiguous sexuality – well, yeah, lots of people are! But I dig it when Prince sings about sex, because goddamnit, he loves sex, so much so that he likens it to a religious experience – in Prince’s view, sex = God, any kind of sex (which automatically puts it above, say, Smell Yo Dick). He also loves partying, and hates war, mostly because it interrupts said party. So partying, sex, and God – how do any of these subjects fit in with a music scene that either celebrates safe indie quirkiness or thinks that “SexyBack” is the hottest club jam ever written?

Maybe it’s better that way, though. Prince is like an alien – even in the 80’s, the peak of his career, people didn’t really “get” him. Maybe nobody ever will. For now, I’ll just put on “Dirty Mind” for the umpteenth and hope with all my soul that he shows up randomly during a Justin Timberlake concert, kick his honky-ass of the stage and put on a REAL show. Long Live the King of Funk!

“Look here martian, I’m not sayin’ this just 2 be nasty
I sincerely wanna fuck the taste outta your mouth
Can U relate?”
-Prince, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”

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>Music Critic Profile: Mark Prindle

>I read a lot of music criticism. Too much, probably; after reading review after review of a particular album my opinion of it might actually start to cater to what everybody else thinks of it. And as someone who would LIKE to have their own, original opinions on their favorite music, this is kind of a tough thing to admit.

But I can’t help it – I am obsessed with music criticism. Some of it I love, some of it I hate. But I can’t stop reading it. There are a lot of people who will tell you that artistic criticism – in any respect, be it film or video games or whatever – is written by a bunch of snobbish fussbudgets who can’t relate to the real world and are just out to put everything down. While this can sometimes be the case, it’s mostly untrue (Rolling Stone gave 4 stars to Linkin Park’s newest album, didn’t you hear?) and the people who say that kind of thing probably listen to… oh, I don’t know, Staind or something. In my view, music criticism is written more out of a love of music than anything else, and can offer up a wealth of fascinating writing if you know who to read. So I’d like to offer some brief profiles of some of my personal favorite record reviewers.

I’ll start with probably my favorite online music critic, Mark Prindle. Prindle has been maintaining Mark Prindle’s Record Reviews for well over a decade now (his first reviews were posted back in 1996), and as far as I can tell, he’s been working pretty diligently in that time – in fact, there are so many artist pages and interviews on his site, getting to the heart of his writing can be a daunting task. This isn’t helped by Prindle’s exhaustive artist reviews – when he profiles an artist, he will review not a meager selection of notable albums, but every single album in that artist’s discography. And that’s not just studio albums – that’s live albums, compilations, bootlegs, and whatever else Prindle happens to own. Now, a common response to this could be “Oh, well, he must really love the bands he reviews if he’s willing to review EVERYTHING they’ve EVER recorded! That’s dedication!” Well, yeah. But the funny thing is, many a time, Prindle will not review a band/artist he actually likes – as such, he will review every album ever recorded for a band he hates. This leads to some fascinating review pages in which he tries to find the good in bands he doesn’t care for (Linkin Park, The Jam, whoever) and it offers up some bizarre – but fascinating – results.

There’s also his style of writing. I don’t quite know how to describe it. The proper adjective here would be “mercurial,” but a few other words come to mind: “loopy”, “rough”, “tangential”, “unnecessarily angry”, and (in some cases) “completely batshit insane.” Unlike many other music critics out there, the reviews on Prindle’s site are (for the most part) not printed in any sort of magazine or fanzine or whathaveyou; the website is there for him and him only. As such, Prindle takes full advantage of the space he has. While most of his reviews are pretty brief (he is reviewing every album in the artist’s catalouge, after all), many will devolve into long, very personal tangents, in which Prindle tells a story, rattles off a series of silly, awful jokes, rants about someone or something, or turns to silly little gimmicks (like running his review of the Jam’s “All Mod Cons” through Babelfish, rendering the review incomprehensible). All in all it makes for a one-of-the-kind reading experience, if you can manage to actually understand what he’s trying to get across without being repulsed or annoyed by his off-the-cuff (and often somewhat juvenile) style.

Oh, did I also mention that Prindle is so dedicated to his readers that he will post every single e-mail response to his reviews below every single review, no matter how negative or fucked-up they might be? Yeah. That just makes things even more unusual.

So while Prindle’s page is a very, very messy-looking affair, his writing shines through; like the great Lester Bangs before him (who Prindle has been compared to more than once), the quality of Prindle’s writing comes from his unfaltering honesty and his genuine love of (most of the) music he’s reviewing. Unlike many reviewers, he is unashamed of mentioning his favorite bands whenever he gets the chance, often name-dropping them in completely unrelated reviews (most notably The Ramones, The Fall, The Byrds, and – most notoriously – the obscure noise-punk band the Cows). He also has a severe vendetta against the alt-rock and electronica trends of the 90’s (having started the site in 1996, he was neck-deep in it), a subject that he will rant about in somewhat unexpected places.

Prindle also has what could be called an obsession with trying to remove any and all influence from other music reviewers, most notably from the Allmusic.com guide, which he has lambasted on more than one occasion. He has no qualms about going back to read over his old reviews and change them if he feels he wasn’t being honest or had cow-towed to universal critical opinion (such as his loving reviews of the critically lambasted late-80’s Ramones, or the 10/10 he gave to the later-era Bowie album “Hours”, the only perfect score he gave Bowie). While it makes for something of a haphazard experience at first, it makes for very entertaining reading, since it is very hard to anticipate how he will feel about almost any given album, popular or obscure. Prindle is very deft at making his reviews funny, entertaining, and – more often than not – surprisingly poignant.

I could keep describing Prindle, but I feel like I’d just be repeating myself; instead, I’ll give a list of some notable Mark Prindle reviews, ranging from the genuine to the bizarre:

– Prindle’s Miles Davis page, which begins with the tagline “I don’t understand jazz really at all,” is a perfect example of Prindle’s tendency to exhaustively review an artist who he doesn’t like – or, in this case, a genre he doesn’t like. Almost every review consists of him reiterating about how he doesn’t “get” jazz, and by the second review – just the SECOND – he goes so far as to say “Everybody who likes jazz is stupid.” Needless to say, he received many negative responses.

– His Linkin Park review page claims that “the backing music is light and tinkly enough to sound EXACTLY like a Backstreet Boys ballad until the loud guitars come in during the chorus. It’s so clearly fucking boy-band music!” This also happens to be one of the longest review pages on Prindle’s site – not due to Prindle’s reviews, but due to the hundreds upon hundreds of responses he received from… well, many angry fans.

– His Emerson Lake and Palmer page is probably one of the most entertaining pages he’s done. Same goes for his Beach Boys page.

– His review of The Beatles’ The Complete Rooftop Concert bootleg, in which he claims that “Although not a very listenable bootleg, The Complete Rooftop Sessions is an important one. It captures the very brief period of time during which The Beatles were a completely inadequate, dysfunctional piece of shit. If you’re ever dissatisfied with the state of YOUR band, give this garbage a listen and you might just see things in a whole new light.” It should be noted that the Beatles are one of his favorite bands.

– His Velvet Underground review page. Mark Prindle hates the Velvet Underground, but unusually enough, loves Lou Reed. He also loves Simon and Garfunkel but hates Paul Simon. Hmm.

– His Bee Gees page, which is totally guest-written by rock critic Gregg Turkington. In case you were wondering, Gregg Turkington also happens to be the legendary Neil Hamburger, the most wonderful terrible comedian ever (who Prindle has not only reviewed, but interviewed.)

– His constant lambasting of Dean of Rock Critics Robert Christgau, including his announcement that Christgau is “…a fuck. A worthless fuck… he’s a fool. A pathetic old man. Ignore every word he says.” This is in the middle of some Pere Ubu review.

– I’ll end with maybe my favorite Prindle reviews, and probably some of the most genuine on the site: his scathing indictment of Madonna’s American Life, the ONLY album on his site to receive a 0/10. Then there’s his unabashedly glowing review of John Mellencamp’s “Scarecrow”: “I’ve been enjoying this album for 15 years. Even during my hardcore punker years when I made fun of the Coug for being such a mainstream dork rocker, I secretly sang all these tunes to myself on a regular basis. Yes, even when I had long hair with the sides of my head shaved like that guy in Faith No More!” And then there’s his review of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”, detailing his experiences during 9/11. It may be the most openly heartfelt review he has ever done, and of course, it ends with him mentioning Bruce Springsteen’s ass.

The truth is, though, that these little excerpts are really only scratching the surface of what Prindle’s site has to offer. Not only are there hundreds of artist review pages on his site, but a wonderful cache of of Prindle’s interviews of key rock figures such as Pavement, Richard Hell, Tommy Ramone, Steve Albini, and many many others. If you have any passing interest in rock music and great writing simultaneously, dig into Mark Prindle’s treasure trove of fractured rock ‘n roll ramblings and never look back.