Rating:As concept albums go, it doesn’t get more conceptual than Top Ten Hits of the End of the World. To put it simply: the 10 tracks on the album are purported to be a compilation of hits from different musical groups who perished in a future apocalypse. Those 10 tracks have been “channeled” through the Brooklyn duo Prince Rama, offering their interpretation of these fictionally doomed hit makers of the days ahead. Got it? For listeners with a passing knowledge of Prince Rama, it’s not as far off the wall as one might think. The band is primarily composed of Taraka and Nimai Larson, sisters whose Hare Krishna backgrounds heavily informed their Eastern-inflected pop leanings and two previous albums Shadow Temple and Trust Now. Their music has long held a dreamy intensity that lends itself to ghost music from the future, but at the end of the day, it’s still an album first and a concept second. So how do those top 10 hits stand up removed from their mythical origins?
Surprisingly, pretty decently. As a collection of tracks supposedly from 10 different artists, Top Ten Hits of the End of the World takes stabs at a myriad of different genres, from the fuzzy garage rock of “No Way Back” (channeling Nu Fighters) to the dark psychedelia of “Receive” (channeling Taohaus) to the upbeat Nordic pop of “We Will Fall In Love Again” (channeling Motel Memory). The Larsons show admirable ambition covering so many styles and even more commendable execution in a number of them; in particular, “No Way Back” has the gritty, feedback laden feel of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or the Jesus and Mary Chain circa Automatic. In contrast, “Those Who Live For Love Will Live Forever” (channeling I.M.M.O.R.T.A.L.I.F.E.) is an upbeat dance track imported straight from a cheesy ‘90s club, all cooing vocals and canned drums (which is not to say it’s bad, merely good pastiche).
But as well done as some of the songs on Top Ten Hits of the End of the World are, they all share so much of Prince Rama’s own sensibility that it’s difficult to take them seriously as the supposed creations of fictional bands. In particular, the duo’s reliance on Eastern melodies and droning harmonies make some of the less distinguished tracks (like the dub-style “Welcome to the Now Age” channeling Hyparxia) sound less a part of the concept and more like filler material. Of course, all of that wouldn’t be as much of an issue if the album’s whole point was to adhere to the faux-compilation idea and simply to produce some good music. But once a band attempts something as daring as Top Ten Hits of the End of the World, it has to be judged on its execution, not just songwriting or ambition. And while there’s plenty of the latter two on the album, there’s sometimes not enough of the former.