3121 (NPG/Universal)

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>0/5

For more than a decade, a dwindling number of Prince fans have cracked open each new CD, hoping against hope that they’ll find a glimmer of the creative fireball he used to be. And for more than a decade, glimmers are all we’ve gotten: Moments of The Gold Experience and Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic are the best the man has to show for his wilderness years. Although 3121 isn’t the second or sixth or 12th coming that some have declared it to be, the album is strong enough to make the faithful go, “Ooh!

The opening title track alone should accomplish that: A steaming hunk of badass funk loaded with grinding bass and sped-up vocals, it could have stomped straight off The Black Album. Not surprisingly, 3121’s other highlights also have an old-school vibe: “Black Sweat” is a libido-laden screamer with a whizzing P-Funk--style synth hook, “Love” features keyboards that probably last saw service on 1980’s Dirty Mind, and “Satisfied” is an Aretha-esque ballad that proudly stands with past hump-the-stage burners like “Slow Love” and “Do Me, Baby.” The album’s most surreal moment, however, occurs on “Incense and Candles,” when the now-monogamous Jehovah’s Witness sings, “I know U want 2 take off all Ur clothes / But please don’t.”

Inevitably, there are some horrible songs, tortured metaphors and slightly creepy references to getting “saved.” But 3121’s hot-to-wack ratio is higher than on any Prince album since 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls—and after all these years, that’ll do.—Jem Aswad