Top 10 Hits Of The End Of The World is the sixth album by New York experimentalists Prince Rama. Except it isn’t. Not really. The duo of sisters Taraka and Niami Larson have instead created a concept album that is baffling, bonkers and, at times, brilliant.
Top 10 Hits… features Prince Rama channeling (their words) the songs of 10 fictional deceased pop bands that have perished in the apocalypse. This album is a compilation of Prince Rama’s take on their hits. It is a long way from Now 82 though. The concept is not just a tenuous link running through the record. Prince Rama have gone to great lengths to create this entirely imaginary dream world where bands with names like The Metaphysixxx and NU Fighters have billboard number 1 hits making music within genres like ‘Motorcycle rock’ ‘Cosmic Disco’ and ‘Tribal Pop’.
Essentially, in simple terms the album is Prince Rama spreading their wings and making music in a number of different styles. Each track is a supposed cover version of a hit by one of their fictitious groups. The bands website features descriptions and photographs of the made up groups that veer from baffling to downright hilarious, the best being the description of London sex cult turned pop group I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E who upon the apocalypse were, “found frozen in midst of an orgiastic collapse.’
For a band that were previously known for making dense, abstract psychedelic sounds capes this jump into surrealist, darkly comic conceptualism is a huge about turn. Prince Rama cannot quite separate themselves from their rather more abstruse nature though. This album is their deeply warped, singular take on pop music. It is though, by a distance, their most accessible work. Tracks like the eastern tinged Blade Of Austerity and the pulsing disco beat of the Giorgio Moroder influenced Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever are excellent avant pop tracks. There is a marked strangeness to these songs, however, that make them incredibly alluring. The hugely enjoyable glam pop thrust of No Way Back by the aforementioned Nu Fighters sounds like nothing else within Prince Rama’s canon. It’s pop music from an entirely different ether.
Elsewhere the album is not quite so captivating. A common fault in Prince Rama’s music is their tendency to overplay their preponderance for mysticism and deep psychedelia. A large portion of the middle part of the record is lost in a fug of impenetrable sounds and aimless noodling. It’s almost as if they have made a decision to make an overtly pop record but don’t quite no how to go about it so sometimes end up reverting to type.
Fortunately, the closing tracks see Prince Rama marrying the weird and the accessible to winning effect. Exercise Ecstasy is a suitably ecstatic piece of hysterical euphoria. According to Prince Rama, this is a song by The Metaphysixxx who are essentially a bunch of MDMA addled exercise instructors. It’s barmy sound fits in well with their fanciful descriptions. The final track, We Will Never Fall Again, is by Motel Memory and it is a power ballad from out of space that apparently spent 9 months at number 1. Here, Prince Rama sound like a demented Eurythmics. The song is all over the place with keyboards and synths spiralling off an all sorts of tangents while the sisters vocals coalesce into one spellbinding rapture. It makes for a suitably striking closer.
As a concept Top 10 Hits… is frequently confusing, often brilliant and at times downright awful. Ultimately, it adds up to a very intriguing album by a band that is quite impossible to pin down. Who knows where Prince Rama will go after this. A record by the mythical Metaphysixxx though would be good.