Album Review: Prince Rama - Xtreme Now

Album Reviews
Gerrit Feenstra

Over decades of milquetoast radio throwaways and sales taking precedent over content, it's undeniable: pop music has lost its sensibility of the extreme. But all is not lost in the brave new world of the digital age. Need evidence? Look no further than Prince Rama's press release for their new album, Xtreme Now, which explains that the album's creation started "while the Larson sisters were living on a black metal utopian commune on Vȫrmsi". Holy shit! They just don't write 'em like that anymore. The funny thing is, Prince Rama aren't faking it in the slightest. This time of hyperactive manifesto is no stranger to the Larson sisters, who previously brought us The Now Age art project and the apocalyptic greatest hits compilation Top Ten Hits at the End of the World. For Prince Rama, the future can take a hike - it's the present that needs fixing, and it's going to happen in the wild and crazy world of the Xtreme Now. If you can hang on, Prince Rama's latest effort is a visceral and rewarding ride, and easily their most cohesive and emotive record yet.

There's a big, goofy story about how Taraka came up with the idea for Xtreme Now on the band's press site, having a cathartic time-traveling experience, traveling via tesseract to an energy drink fueled future obsessed with classical fine art, as well as medieval times (all of this explains their incredible press shot pretty well). But the key ingredient here is that the experience - however real or unreal - was triggered by a close encounter with death. Death puts a lot of things in perspective, including what we choose to call important. Xtreme Now is a dizzying blender of cultures, mixing the brutal self-defense of the feudal ages with the bizarre mid-2000s obsession with motocross and Monster energy drinks, all given a classical art sheer (how fantastic are those Mona Lisa leggings?). What are we trying to paint our culture as? What are we trying to tell the world that is important, especially when it all goes to shit? These are the questions that Prince Rama tackle on Xtreme Now, all shrouded in obscurity as they dive directly into the layered culture themselves. It's like watching Game of Thrones, The Fast & Furious, and the Da Vinci Code all at the same time.

While this may sound like a crowded disaster, Prince Rama do a surprisingly incredible job at translating this cacophony musically. There is a very guttural, drum circle groove that lays the basis for "Bahia" and "Fantasy", the likes of which we saw on Top Ten cuts like "Blade of Austerity". Then, we are hit with the pop majesty of "Your Life In The End" and "Now Is The Time of Emotion", both handling bleak human constructs of emotion and intimacy in the most pop accessible way possible. It's evident from Prince Rama's prior work that the pop medium here is indeed a tool - this isn't a cop out or cash grab on their part for writing more easily accessible material. Rather, it's a slick vessel for a harsh message, one that is pampered with nasty realism. The Larson sisters get full credit for writing pop gems here. Finally, the classical sheen motif is seen in songs like "Sochi", that have harpsichord-esque synth leads and whose airiness intentionally comes off as privileged. Because truly, in the xtreme now, we choose to embrace the present as it exists now or leave the future to be forever unaffected.

Listening to closer "Shitopia", Prince Rama's message becomes a bit clearer in the neon haze. "I don't want to be there but here's bad too... sometimes I can't tell the difference." The late 90s groove moves forward with an apocalyptic eye on the clock. Time's a wasting, and we have to embrace the now if we're going to get anything done at all. Because as Prince Rama see it, the future's not too far off from Idiocracy levels of hyperbolic nonsense. Listening to this closer, the last shot of the original Terminator movie comes to mind, as Sarah Conner climbs into her jeep, dog in the passenger, knowing she's going to live decades of a thankless existence to save the world she loves. Prince Rama took a near-death experience and turned it into an omen to embrace life. "You gotta give your life, give your life to the end." They aren't joking, but that doesn't mean it can't be fun.

Xtreme Now is out this week through Carpark Records. Prince Rama will tour in support of the record, and will hit Barboza on April 3. If you saw their insane show with Dan Deacon last year, you know you'll want to be there. Grab tickets here.

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