The perfectly groomed, tightly wound tiny ball of a 56-year-old has gone back to the future with his latest release. Prince has gone back to working with a major label (as opposed to unexpectedly dropping albums via newspapers or websites), and he's opted for the almost vinyl-esque option of two different albums with different personalities this time around.
It's not about singles, or instantaneous gratification, but he's got no problem with jumping into the sound world of 2014, throwing in all sorts of interesting vocal effects, and bleepy explosions, all the while keeping it undeniably funky - and Prince-like.
The slightly patronising opening of "Welcome home class, you've come a long way" in Art Official Cage is a little baffling, but turns into a slowed-down EDM-style rave-along which is actually quite fun. If there's one thing Prince knows how to do, it's construct a ridiculously appealing soundworld of group vocals, air-horns, chiming electric guitars, and several bonkers raps.
He does seem to lose steam with tracks like This Could Be Us and What It Feels Like, which are both too syrupy and vaseline-on-the-lens style, but there's something appealingly modern about the sparseness of U Know, which is all about seductive vocal intimacy.
Breakfast Can Wait is kind of hilarious in it's silliness - all gravy and grits, hotcakes and jam - and Funknroll, which borrows a little from the world of hip hop, is a banging blues shout-out at heart.
Over on Plectrum Electrum, Prince is following Jack White and Beyonce, employing an all-girl band (3rdEyeGirl) - though he's always had a knack for getting sassy ladies involved in his work - Sheila E and Rhonda Smith for example - and female musicians seem to love him too.
It's a more straightforward offering than Art Official Age, and the better for it in some ways. It's rock 'n' roll, it's funk, it's very tight, and it's perfect for enthusiastic late night singalongs. You can feel how potent these songs would sound live.
There's something gleeful about all the wicked guitars and echoing drums and angular bass lines, but they show off a softer side with the slightly twisted sunny 70s Whitecaps and find another gear for the heavy slow jam of Anotherlove. I'm still trying to work out exactly what Pretzelbodylogic means (no, it doesn't sound like Steely Dan's third album Pretzel Logic), but it's got one hell of an attitude.
Whether there's anything here that will compete with the 30th anniversary re-release of Purple Rain that is rumoured to be happening in coming months is questionable. But there are enough great tracks between the two to make one great album. The rest is sprinkled with sufficient Prince gold dust to make them worth your while.
Art Official Age
Still funky after all these years.