"It's goin' down, y'all, like the wall of Berlin," says Prince during 3121's opening title track, a slice of funk more wobbly and bizarre than anything he has released this side of that wall tumbling. It's comforting to know that, like Kate Bush, he still lets the weirdness in. And like Bush's Aerial, 3121 isn't a breath of fresh air but a sigh of relief. It's as though it took all of these years (roughly since 1987's Sign o' the Times) to learn how to not innovate. Finally he sounds relaxed enough to be funky and funny without endlessly jamming or knotting spiritual yarn. It helps that Prince has recovered from synthaphobia — his keyboards crunch and drum machines thwack as they haven't in a decade. 3121 is Prince's most consistently exciting disc since 1992's symbol-titled album. Were 3121 released then, it would have been a disappointment. Today it's a rare gem. May the walls continue coming down.

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Rich Juzwiak