Prince’s “The Chocolate Invasion” Reviewed
There had to be a way to listen to Prince’s NPG releases that didn’t feel a little like punishment for the best of his former pleasures, right. I mean the triple live one followed by the triple instrumental one, it wasn’t much fun, really now, was it? Going through the New Power Generation club releases has felt like hard work at times, it is like Prince was trying to convince you all your love for him was misplaced and that first impression, the one where he was a gnomic asshole, like Lou Reed only half the size and a touch more ego, that was the real Prince. I recently gave Prince’s 30th album, Musicology, a B+, but that was mostly relief that it wasn’t a jazzy instrumental and in the calm light of day it feels more like a “B”. Certainly, Musicology isn’t as good as his “follow-up” The Chocolate Invasion -actually, less a follow-up and more a compilation and saving of songs from the NPG group that might have gotten lost in the shuffle and I guess did anyway.
Most of the songs on the March 2004 The Chocolate Invasion date from 2001 and were put together three years later and Prince continued to extradite himself from a concept that wasn’t really working any more, So the point is that Prince was at his best performing straight up r&b tracks with vocal hooks no fancy crap big concept surrounding em. More Songs About Chocolates And Fucking seems to sum it up and from the last track, the gorgeous Angie Stone ballad “U Make My Sun Shine” that loops round to the beginning and the first six songs are really as consistently great as anything Prince released in the 21st century. From tracks 7 to 9 it is too roto funky but not specifically bad, and the end is killer.
The real story is the clutch of songs in the front. “When Eye Lay My Hands On U” is a full frontal fuck song, a sizzling sex jam that builds and subsides like something that builds and subsides and is all promise at dawn. I wonder how good Prince was in bed. He promises “the places that I’ll be kissin’ are the places that no other man could ever find…” and if that is business as usual well, “Take off your clothes and meet me between the lines” is almost an original thought, isn’t it? And speaking of original thoughts, equating the use of robots with slavery on “Judas Smile” is a new one to me as Prince funks his brains out and it is all click clack pre-Trap cleft working. Even better is “Va-Va-Voom”, as much fun as a dance track can be, But if there is one of those great Prince songs you always knew was there but never knew where to find it, that song is “Supercute”. I just adore prince when he is so hot and smooth, when he has written the song from top to finish and then thrown in a dream little squiggly keyboard. It is so good humored, so is “Va-Va-Woom”, they set the tone for one of the best natured albums he has ever released.
The Chocolate Invasion reminds me of one of Presley’s better low budget albums, there is nothing to really hold it together, and no reason for it to work so well, yet it does click and it sounds as though it is all coming from the same place. Maybe it is a compilation of tracks from mix tapes, with no physical release, maybe that’s what it was, or just odd tracks he through up on the NPG website, like Kanye’s old TGIF songs from a coupla years back, they are just songs that have been hanging around and deserved to be brought to our attention again. I prefer it to 3121 or the overeager Art Official Age stuff. he isn’t trying as hard here and so the rewards are cooler: he doesn’t sweat it and his coolness works for him. A real find.