In an interview with Bullett earlier this week, Taraka Larson, mastermind and vocalist for the sister duo Prince Rama, explained the band’s new record thusly: “I think in a way we are asking the world if this is the end of history’s creative output and are we now just ghosts with phantom limbs doomed to recapitulate the gestures of our past? . . . Answer: Who cares? Throw some glitter and lipstick on that shit. Let’s dance!”
These are the two levels upon which one can approach Prince Rama’s concept album Top 10 Hits of the End of the World, wherein they “channel” fake bands that supposedly perished in the apocalypse. Larson’s vision of a spiritualized, post-kitsch “ghost-modernism” is explored to surprising depths in her manifesto “The Now Age,” which supplies a fully-realized philosophical context for this, the band’s best record to date, a “retrospective requiem of all pop albums ever made.” And so the listener can approach the set of synth-heavy dance tunes through a whole pop-utopian mythology of disco-ball worship, apocalypto lovemaking and surrender to the eternal present. Or, as Larson herself suggests, you can rock some gold lamé and lose yourself in the party—which is the philosophy in practice.
On their prior records, the duo drew on their upbringing within the Hare Krishna tradition of ecstatic chant to craft dark, tribal noise-pop full of sanskrit incantation. We get a bit of that here with “Receive (channeling Taohaus)” and “Radhamadhava (channeling Goloka).” The band are at their best, though, when they follow their fictional muses closer to the supposed genres from which they originated. “Those Who Live for Love Will Live Forever (channeling I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E.)” is an ’80s dance anthem par excellence, true to the spirit of the London sex cult they channel, and deserving of the status as the album’s chief single. Similarly, “So Destroyed (channeling Rage Peace)” is a giddy piece of synthpop, supposedly penned by a nihilistic ’90s protest band who died in a flaming limousine. “Combed from decades worth of soft rock albums and refined through countless polls of what people denoted at ‘pleasant listening’,” the computer-generated band Hyparxia deliver the album’s centerpiece, “Welcome to the Now Age,” an anthem known to all children in the postapocalyptic utopia, which skates forward on a groovy little Casio preset.
With production help from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti and international exposure thanks to a fall tour with Animal Collective, Prince Rama have gone from cozy charade to cultural spectacle almost overnight, which is lucky for us because, with Dec. 21, 2012, less than a month away, someone needs to start the party.