Like It’s ‘1999’

There was purple. There was jamming. No one dared come on in a G-string, but there was stage-humping. The black-rockers, freaks, and stars who created “Party at the End of Time,” a salute to Prince’s 1999 album at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Saturday night, weren’t on a curatorial or educational mission; there was less talking than at any tribute show I’ve seen, and introductions were saved for the end, to allow more coitus and less interruptus. Forget millennium anxiety: For Prince, apocalypse was another seduction line, and theology pulled believers into the Church of the Holy Pussy.

The day after a great party, you remember the show-offs and the teases: Coati Mundi entering in a straitjacket for “Delirious,” Corey Glover rousing the crowd with old-school Apollo tricks on “Lady Cab Driver,” and Bilal dropping to his knees, grinding into the floor, then comically falling asleep during the vainglorious “International Lover,” leaving folks asking who the hell he was (debut album on Interscope in the spring). Driven by drummer ?uestlove’s overamped snare, funkier and less singular than Prince’s clattering machine beat, each song raced off into improvised sections. Poor Prince Be of P.M. Dawn added reggae touches to “Free” but lacked the stage skills to extemporize, and wore a grape velvet suit that made him look like a California Raisin.

The band, led by the Roots, and guitarist Vernon Reid, deployed Prince’s own loose, theatrical brass to confidently explode the songs. During “Lady Cab Driver,” ?uestlove signaled the band to lay out, leaving Reid and Mark Anthony Jones to duet on rhythm guitars—it sounded like Glenn Branca orchestrating Chic, and should have gone on forever. But as the Minneapolis Mite said, parties weren’t meant to last. At the end of a lavish charge through the tricky changes of “DMSR,” with Angelique Kidjo groping her body as though Prince himself was controlling her hands, Reid looked back disappointedly at ?uestlove, eager for the jam to continue on and on. —Rob Tannenbaum

Unknown Territories

A breathtaking, glass-and-wood-encased, self-playing Wurlitzer band organ opened the show with a light-stepping yet complex melody called “Illinois.” Then the band appeared. “We’re the Statesmen,” announced John Linnell, a/k/a one-half of They Might Be Giants. “We only play songs named after states.” This was Saturday night at the Bowery Ballroom, where Linnell was promoting State Songs, his first major non-Giants release—not teaching social studies. “I don’t like U, I don’t like Utah . . . ,” “Iowa is a witch . . . ,” “We must eat Michigan’s brain . . . ,” the would-be anthems proclaimed. Linnell plans to eventually cover all 50 states.

The band organ was not an easy instrument to track down. Nor would many consider it search-worthy: Its paper rolls require painstaking prepunching with an exacto knife, and there’s no margin for error. The Statesmen played along with it flawlessly, with delightful results—like having a merry-go-round in the band. The Wurlitzer’s shiny pipes bounced happily up and down with the audience. While Linnell switched between synthesizer and accordion, his Statesmen rotated percussive and backup vocal duties. When the organ sat out, a car alarm or Dustbuster took its place, giving each song a distinctive flavor, although not necessarily one related to how the states might view themselves. Saturday’s hour-long set offered fans a distilled insight into Linnell’s contributions to They Might Be Giants—plus a few stark departures, like a Springsteen cover (“Nebraska”) and the hysterical skinhead-rock “California,” in which Governor Jerry Brown (onetime 1-800-presidential candidate) chants, “California über alles.”

Linnell’s brilliance lies in songs that are both well-crafted and spontaneous. He can experiment without sacrificing the loops and rhythms that implant a song in a subconscious. Demographic research? “A little bit, for the liner notes [on each state],” he told me, then admitted that he had some fun with those too. —Judith Basya

Second Annual Real-Life Consumer Guide

by Josh Goldfein

Is this the last year you’ll buy “CDs” in a “store”? We shopped for 26 items at four stores and five Web sites. Prices are about the same as last year, but promo copies proved harder to find, except at online consortium If you must buy new, Cdnow beat or matched Amazon and for all 26; was close behind Cdnow but for many items considerably cheaper. Other Music and Tower had different prices for nine items, and OM’s price was better for seven (although two were used, including a “clean” copy of ODB—as if). By the same measure, J&R beat Tower 12 to 3. We figured shipping and sales tax were roughly equivalent. Here’s a sampling: