Day 9: ‘Sign o’ the Times’
Agreeing to take a bath with someone but then keeping your trousers on sounds a bit like a storyline written for Ross when Friends was in its prime, but in this brilliant album Prince can make even this seem like the logical decision.
He’s a man who may be guilty of a bit of rambling (that comes with his frequency of output), but when he focuses his mind it’s like he’s holding a magnifier glass up to the sun: it doesn’t just shine a light on it, it starts a fire. The minimal percussion on the opening track only serves to further calibrate this, with his personal vignettes emblematic of wider social problems in the US.
Before you have a chance to digest in silence, he throws a rocking beat about sunshine at you: it could be in bad taste, but it gets the balance of seizing the day. For me, on ‘Housequake’ Prince’s pitched up vocals live in a similar domain to the Jar Jar Binks character from star wars: it’s not meant to be annoying, but the distraction becomes so dominating you can’t help being irritated. Quite a few of the tracks starts off with a lot of booming funk promise, but the percussion is given the lime-light, with only the odd tease of bass and guitar.
Highlight ‘The Ballard Of Dorothy Parker’ starts of with a wonderfully synthesized machine-gun drum intro, and breaks into a tale of fully clothed bubble baths and blue balling. Of course prince likes bubble baths, I also do and so (along with that fact it’s a great track) this one is definitely my pick from the album.
I really like the chord changes and inverted drum beats on ‘Starfish And Coffee’, everyone on the track seems like they are having a good time. ‘I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man’ is a great sing along that I suspect he wrote for Bryan Adams or someone like that. (I’ve just checked and there’s no history referring to this on Wikipedia, but you can’t rely on that, can you?). Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with Bryan Adams. Both ‘Hot Thing’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Beautiful Night’ provide a bit of energy with thrusting free-jazz and raw funk, respectively. ‘Adore’ also works well as closer, gently easing you out of the bath and back into the real world.
Overall a strong album, it’s one the fans and the critics liked too, but a long one - I hope he doesn’t make a habit of this for my sake. ‘Dorothy’ and ‘Hot Thing’ are the winners here.
Album rating: 9.4/10
Playlist so far:
The Ballard Of Dorothy Parker
Girls & Boys
The Beautiful Ones
Something In The Water (Does Not Compute)
When You Were Mine
Why You Want To Hurt Me So Bad