The last time Prince got religion—or, if you believe Alex Hahn's Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince, enlightenment via Ecstasy—he pulled



Also: Om and Drive-By Truckers




The last time Prince got religion—or, if you believe Alex Hahn's Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince, enlightenment via Ecstasy—he pulled the dirty-mouthed Black Album before reversing course again and playing some of its most scabrous songs on the Lovesexy tour. Now, the recently minted Jehovah's Witness (ahem) swears foul language is truly a thing of the past. He'll threaten on the brilliant electro-funk single "Black Sweat" to steal your woman, but refuse to do more than dance with a "Lolita" who's hot for him. That cut finds him pulling an "admit/We'd be the—uh-oh!" almost rhyme and pledging that "you'll never make a cheater out of me"; the overall design throughout the disc is to celebrate lust within a committed relationship, i.e., Prince's current marriage. (Just hear the ballad-heavy second half, which is also quite tasty. Can he be planning a wide-screen romance? 3121's label is somewhat ominously subtitled "The Music.") Even the invention of a record like The Gold Experience is long gone, but the degree of inspiration and just plain fun on display here dwarfs that of 2004's "comeback," Musicology. Thank Jehovah that his witnesses don't ban dancing. RICKEY WRIGHT


Conference of the Birds

(Holy Mountain)

Rather than vibrate the innards of listeners in the manner of Sunn O))), Om move the earth under your feet by way of minimalist bottom-end meditations. Two-thirds of latter-day stoner metal heroes Sleep, Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius apply bass-and-drum riffage to two tracks equaling roughly 35 minutes in length. Opener "At Giza" is a bong hit of a number, with Cisneros exhaling the lyrics "Sentient ground of the light shrine shining" like a pre-shrieking Ozzy. Through their mantra-esque approach, Om excel at conjuring natural imagery. Though at times they approach the condition of a soft landslide in some Asian country, the effect is nothing short of mud, trees, wind, and rain. Midway through "At Giza," Cisneros and Hakius level things off into a slow-moving river of bass and shimmering hi-hat. They take their time, allowing the negative space to pulsate before ripping the sky open with a soggy mountain of fuzz, which blends seamlessly into "Flight of the Eagle," the album's other half. This 17-minute epic wastes no time in laying out Kyuss-style four-string thunder, rendering the concept of guitar solos (of which there are none) useless. Cisneros' resonant, hazy vocals are like some great winged bird dipping and soaring; his words a cross between Zen poetry and Dungeons & Dragons wizardry. In fact, you may want a dictionary at your side while the disc spins. "Formate shrineite seize the litan rounds the unobscured code," he says. I don't know what it means, either, but when Cisneros sings it over his great slab of bass and Hakius' subtle pounding, you by God listen. BRIAN J. BARR

Drive-By Truckers

A Blessing and a Curse

(New West)

The Drive-By Truckers sound like what the Grateful Dead or Phish would resemble if you force-fed them Jack Daniels and meth instead of 'shrooms and Bolivian marching powder, locked them in a rustic Alabama cabin for five years, and made them listen attentively to David Allan Coe's entire catalog on repeat. The point here? Killer jam bands come in very different flavors. Take My Morning Jacket. Their Z was one of the most critically lauded albums of 2005. There's nothing wrong with Z—unless, of course, you've heard the tracks performed live and realize how inferior the studio versions are. Which isn't to say the studio versions are bad; they're just not bad. This is the catch-22 of the top 1 percent of live acts: No matter how good the album, it's just not going to measure up to the time you saw (insert band) at (insert venue) in (insert city) after drinking/inhaling too much (insert booze/narcotic), and to top things off, running stark naked down (insert street) before getting apprehended by (insert police force) and having your buddy Ted bail you out of a holding cell at 8 the next morning. Bands like these are the tent poles upon which life experiences are built, and that's what makes them so much better than virtually anything else on the planet. So what if the Truckers' aptly named A Blessing and a Curse is a competent, pleasant, but ultimately forgettable studio album? It gives them 11 more songs to reimagine brilliantly onstage without resorting to Karen Carpenter covers. MIKE SEELY

DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS With Son Volt and Curt Kirkwood. Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 206-628-3151, $20 adv./$22. 8 p.m. Tues., May 9.

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