Each new release by [artist formerly known as Prince] only makes you anticipate the compilation that will rescue its two or three stunners from the dross. Chaos and Disorder repeats that scenario for the fifth or sixth (I’ve lost count) consecutive time. Just when you’re ready to write [the artist formerly known as Prince] off as a casualty of ego and self-indulgence, the imp delivers. ”i like it there” is three rapturous minutes of hard-rock guitar and drooling lyrics, and ”dig u better dead” makes its didactic, choose-life message palatable with a warm-hearted funk groove. Suddenly, hope springs eternal — or, at least, for 10 or so minutes.
Otherwise, the title of Chaos and Disorder serves as its own best review. The record again demonstrates the former Prince’s formidable skill as a bandleader; few, if any, of his peers can adeptly shift the tempos and textures of huge ensembles the way [the artist formerly known as Prince] can. But the musicians’ dexterity — and the album’s lively, nonstop-party vibe — is wasted on apocalyptic lyrics with a New Age bent, campy dialogue bits, and too many songs that cross the line from energetic to cute. Humor could have rescued ”i rock, therefore i am” from its title; instead, the song is an unwieldy mesh of a dancehall vocal, a lame rap, and a lyric that chastises those in the industry who want him to change. (You mean there are some who would brazenly suggest that he not release every scrap of music he records?)
The explanation for the chaos may be simple: A liner note says the album is a ”compilation…originally intended 4 private use only” and will be ”the last original material recorded by [the artist formerly known as Prince] 4 Warner Brothers Records.” The implication is that Chaos and Disorder is a vault-clearing throw-together meant to fulfill a contract. No longer content to wallow in a persecution complex, [the artist formerly known as Prince] now apparently feels his fans have to pay for the cross. C+