Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti
Aug 20, 2012 Web Exclusive
Now that Ween has officially (finally?) ceded the throne of comedy rock, maybe it's time we give Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, better known as Ariel Pink, his rightful crown. Back in the early aughts, with the brothers Ween already selling out huge shows, Ariel Pink was crafting the lo-est of lo-fi pop experiments, each of them revealing both an encyclopedic knowledge of music and songcraft-with a particular fetish for '70s and'80s radio hits-and an off-kilter sense of humor on par with that of Ween, Zappa, et al, or his own oft-cited influence, R. Stevie Moore.
With Mature Themes, his second full-length for 4AD, and his second studio-quality recording (for the most part), Ariel Pink lays on the humor thick enough that his sheer songwriting ability is at times almost overshadowed. "Is This the Best Spot" pairs herky-jerky, geeky '80s fare à la Devo, Plastic Bertrand, et al with the explicit/explosive couplet "G-spot/H-bomb." Later, "Driftwood" manages to get in the phrase "the bad breath of a cross-eyed goat." Or witness the complete dive into comedy rock: the extremely catchy "Schnitzel Boogie," which even boasts a fake drive-thru interaction reminiscent of Ween's own "Pollo Asado."
More often, it's less over-the-top. Ariel Pink perfectly toes the fine line between homage and parody, as on the title track, which might have been penned by David Crosby, or "Only in My Dreams," which is pure Roger McGuinn material. They're both wonderful pop tunes, making it almost beside the point how firmly tongues are planted in cheeks. And that's the real strength of Ariel Pink over the years-something about his music seems entirely un-self-conscious, as if he's simply been steeped in his particular (and admittedly kooky) musical avenues, and introduces the humor to amuse himself more than anyone else. As funny as a lot of comedy-leaning rock can be, it's often a one-off, throwaway gag-think Tenacious D, or yes, late-era Ween. Ariel Pink's sense of humor, while always off, isn't ever necessarily the centerpiece. It plays second fiddle to a genuinely mature (if you will) sense of songcraft and arrangement, and suddenly you're hopelessly humming lines like "Dr. Mario/the colonoscopist down in the barrio" to yourself. That's the best kinda funny.
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