When the apocalypse finally arrives, I don’t know about you but as much as I love music and appreciate how much of my life I seem to devote to it, it’s not going to be high on my list of priorities on the post-apocalyptic streets of Britain. Food, yes; water, of course; companionship, sure, that’d be nice. I wouldn’t really be worried about losing the bands (Taylor Swift aside, of course) that made up the top ten the day before the final day. I mean, have you seen the charts recently? But it appears that psych duo Prince Rama think I’ve got my priorities the wrong way round. Worried that you’ll miss the acts that died in the apocalypse? Fear not! Sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson have taken the time to channel those deceased acts and given us the chance to hear one final song from the likes of Guns of Dubai, Nu Fighters and – you’ll like this – a duo of radical architects who meld Western functionality with Eastern thinking called Taohaus, on their new album Top 1o Hits of the End of the World. I know, right?
It’s a high-concept idea (but not a new one, as Sonny Smith from Sonny and the Sunsets has attempted similar) from the sisters who normally ply a trade in tribal, drone-heavy psych/synth but have – for the most part – ditched all that for ten tracks of fairly samey and generally uninspiring synth pop. By going to the lengths of creating whole bios, taking photos and coming up with genre tags (“motorcycle rock” or “ghost-modern glam” anyone?) for all the lost bands, they’ve actually diluted what made Prince Rama – living on Hare Krishna communes aside – so interesting in the first place, and left us with something that sounds a bit like a poor man’s Gang Gang Dance. If the music was as fun as reading all the band bios, then I’d be telling you all about a record that was a great listen and wasn’t worried about taking itself too seriously. Let’s be honest, though, there’s going to be at least a few people coming to Top 10 Hits without knowing the backstory and concept, and they will only be confronted by average music.
And so we start on the compilation with the Middle Eastern rhythms, big drums and chants of ‘Blade of Austerity’ (by the aforementioned Guns of Dubai) which goes nowhere. That’s swiftly followed by the drab hi-NRG Depeche Mode-lite of ‘Those Who Live for Love Will Live Forever’ by London-based sex cult I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E. So far, so what? Things do improve through the clubby beats and lacerating guitars of ‘No Way Back’ (by Los Angeles’ Nu Fighters) which rolls brilliantly into the fuck-you attitude of Rage Peace and their song ‘So Destroyed’. That track struts along backed with indecipherable chants from the Larson girls, and suddenly everything seems rather promising. The flow, though, is interrupted by Taohaus’ ‘Receive’ which attempts to marry some kind of Eastern mysticism to gloomy goth-pop and fails miserably. ‘Radhamadhava’ is an embarrassing attempt at Bollywood glamour and ‘Welcome to the New Age’ is as worrying as the title suggests. Although the Bananarama-esque ‘Exercise Ecstasy’ by The Metaphysixxx is hilarious fun and shows what Prince Rama could have pulled off if they’d really lived these bands’ lives, it’s sadly too little, too late.
I do admire the ambition of Prince Rama and the concept of Top 10 Hits is an incredibly fun one, but the problem is twofold: they’ve not pushed the concept far enough as the songs lack variety but more importantly, the music just isn’t very interesting or appealing. Proof, if anything, that hanging out with Animal Collective isn’t always necessarily going to result in artistic success.