The Rainbow Children
Npg Records/redline Entertainment
By: Eric Greenwood
And you thought Graffiti Bridge was bad. You’ll be begging for “Thieves In The Temple” after you get a load of this. Bitter and disappointed by the lack of hits off his blatant stab at a comeback, 1999’s Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic, Prince cashes in his “genius” chips and produces his most overwrought and utterly pretentious album to date, which is no small feat. A sticker on the packaging labels The Rainbow Children “controversial”, but this is anything but. Cheesy fusion jazz noodlings that would make Chick Corea blush are interspersed with Prince’s attempt at a “God” voice, which he uses when he wants to SEND A MESSAGE. The best effect he could muster is a retro voice box that sounds like a Wookie talking in slow motion. How did it come to this? If finding the Lord is the cause, I hope the devil strikes up a new deal”and fast.
The Rainbow Children is so embarrassingly bad it makes you question Prince’s genius heretofore. Quickie, throwaway contractual obligations like Chaos And Disorder suddenly have new found esteem when compared to this mess. Prince spreads himself so thinly here that even melodies he could have written in his sleep sound like they indeed were. Formless anti-pop is Prince”s flavor of the week. There is nary a good song on this album. His James Brown funk (“The Work pt. 1”) pales in comparison to the original. His offbeat, jazzy runs are cringe-worthy and trite. The raucous guitar solos are forced and altogether unnecessary. Even his voice sounds thin and lifeless, overdubbed so many times that it sounds like millions of robot-Princes uniting for no good reason at all. Is this what his beleaguered and stubbornly loyal fans deserve? To slog through a gratuitous and preachy sermon on unity and love?
Prince sounds as if he believes in the hype of his legend so thoroughly that whatever he farts onto plastic is worthy of your time. Well, it”s not, and there”s never been such categorically damning evidence as this steaming turd of an album. Kicking off the long string of bad ideas is the title track, where the aforementioned jazz noodlings sound not unlike elevator muzak. Ten minutes later I awake in a stupor (and a puddle of drool) to find that the song is still going strong. “Muse 2 The Pharaoh” continues down the cheesy lite favorites course of its predecessor, except this time we”re treated to a nonsensical mix of sexual fantasy (“in other words intertwine/with the ebony and milk of her thighs”) and bible-references (“and if the Proverb of 31 verse 10/becomes the song she sings again and again/she might b queen”). Listening to Prince try to reconcile is lust for flesh and his new found religion is comical and surreal.
Prince’s reputation for quality output has become somewhat of a joke in recent years. Everybody loves the Prince of yore- the shamelessly arrogant, notoriously shy, sexual provocateur, but without the hooks and the hits, Prince is a strange, aging goblin, confused by a desire to bolster his legend and still impress himself. His decisions have been shaky at best. The guy just needs to hire a fucking manager”and an editor (Jesus, his songs are long). But maybe the glory days are over, leaving Prince to his own devices to sink deeper and deeper into this Utopian fantasyland. No one questions his ability, but his taste is another matter. The public has sighed collectively so many times at each wasted opportunity that interest in new Prince material is peripheral at best, evoking even the dreaded “he”s still making records?” from those without an ear to the ground.
Peddling music online has led Prince into an even more detached and out of touch state. His vitriol for the music industry, notwithstanding, it’s still shocking and sad to see his talent wasted on laborious albums that nobody buys. Fire the New Power Generation and hook back up with the Revolution, for God’s sake. Just do something. I don”t know what could bail him out at this point. Prince may be too far-gone. A Jehovah”s Witness? What the hell is going on? Crappy, unmelodic songs like “Digital Garden?” What happened to choruses and bridges? These aimless indulgences are forgotten as soon as they end. I couldn”t hum one of these songs if you paid me to, much less remember a sample lyric. The only thing you take away from The Rainbow Children is a strong sense of how far off his rocker Prince is in 2001.