Ariel Pink

pom pom

4AD

Nov 24, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Ariel Pink cuts a pretty divisive figure in indie music circles. His work over the last decade has oscillated wildly between beautiful weird wisps of '70s soft rock and off-kilter absurdist pop that's so aggressively strange it's practically littered with punch lines. Never has that dichotomy been better calibrated than on Pink's 2012 release Mature Themes, a record featuring his trusty backing band The Haunted Graffiti. That album crackled with inventive song structures and calliope harmonies, and featured achingly earnestsometimes bordering on innocently naiveAOR ballads spliced perfectly between tracks that seemed to lovingly embrace Pink's madcap lounge singer persona in large doses. Pink's stranger work on Mature Themes never sounded overbearing or desperate for attentionweird for weird's sakebut on his first album as a strict solo act, pom pom, he can't help but force his skewed pop sensibilities into more and more ridiculous places.

Tracks like the Kim Fowley (for real) assisted, hallucinogenic novelty pop of "Jell-O" and "White Freckles" sound as if there's a joke Pink isn't sharing with the listeners, and that insouciant lack of self-awareness eventually curdles into misanthropy. It's a presentation issue, and it doesn't help that Pink's two notable pieces of press in the lead up to pom pom's release featured a cringe-worthy story about how "he got maced by a feminist" and the subsequent scorching of any working relationship he supposedly had with Madonna for her new record. Granted, the album does feature a few excellently bizarre songwriting showcases like the organ-driven rocker "Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade" and lead single "Put Your Number in My Phone," a track that leans toward the earnest '70s Laurel Canyon crooner end of the spectrum for Pink while letting in unsettling undercurrents that make it very hard to pin down. But in the end, at 15 tracks, pom pom is a bit of a funhouse slog; too malevolent and toxic to really get close to. (www.ariel-pink.com)

Author rating: 5/10

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