With these two albums, Prince returns to Warner Bros., the label where he made his Eighties classics, then rancorously left in 1996. Art Official Age is an attempt to get back to the violet-tinted pop mastery of the Purple Rain era. Plectrumelectrum is a set of exploratory funk-rock jams written with his new all-female band, 3rdEyeGirl. Guess which one you’ll probably like best.
”Every time you catch her singing in the shower/You should go and get a flower/And just rub it on her back,” Prince advises over the sumptuous synth funk of ”Clouds,” setting the psychedelic sex-doctor tone of Art Official Age. ”Funknroll” and ”U Know” are futurist body movers, and the plush, sparkling soul ballad ”This Could Be Us,” reportedly inspired by Purple Rain heroine Apollonia, totally lives up to her motor-cycle-striding greatness. Plectrumelectrum, meanwhile, is as odd as its song titles; on ”Pretzelbodylogic” and the title track, Prince does his Hendrix thing over turgid live-band grind, and songs like ”Whitecaps” and ”Aintturninround,” where 3rdEyeGirl step out front, have a New Age-y alt-rock feel, like No Doubt in a Funkadelic phase. Prince’s genius remains intact, and as confusing as ever.