Saturday, February 01, 2014

O(+> (1992)

Prince does not always make albums the length of feature films, but it does seem to be a default position. This so-called Love Symbol Album is another, featuring the lively New Power Generation band and road-testing his new "name" (the symbol reproduced emoticon style with O(+>). Part grand joke, part deranged reaction from a legal dispute with Warner Bros. over rights to the master recordings of his material, it's about as exasperating and hilarious as anything he has done. Talk about passive aggressive. Warner Bros. was forced to send floppy discs to all its media contacts with the custom font. Flailing for direction, PR and fans took to referring to him as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince," "TAFKAP," "The Artist," or "glyph," all of which seemed infinitely more silly than anything yet. "My name is Prince," he announces in the first seconds of this album, on a song of exactly that name. I took that as meaning the issue of pronunciation had been reasonably clearly addressed. At any rate, it's a pretty good song, and it's followed with an even better song, "Sexy M.F." Early indications were thus that this would be a worthy follow-up to the preceding Diamonds and Pearls, which was very good. But O(+> soon wanders off into the great caverns of its 18 total tracks and some narrative "rock opera" concept that periodically surfaces, mostly in connection to the short and baffling (and annoying—please, everyone, stop these skits) spoken-word "segue" tracks. For what it's worth, Wikipedia reports that many more of the segue tracks, clarifying the story, were tossed in favor of a late addition, "I Wanna Melt With You." It's a good song and I applaud the decision to backbench the story. On recent visits, in fact, the more I hear of this album the more I like these songs, so take this if you will as a positive recommendation and not just a cautious one. It's a strong entry in his second tier. As is usually the case, I prefer the songs with more tempo over torchy turns at ballads, but it's all good. TAFKAP has always known what he's doing when it comes to the art and science of entertainment, and the pacing here is flawless. It's the case even on what most consider his weaker albums, such as Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, so easy to take for granted perhaps. But no one puts together a 75-minute album better than glyph.

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