Nov 24, 2014 Web Exclusive
Even those who detest Ariel Pink's think piece-baiting persona will likely admit that, on some level, the L.A. pop savant is an important artist. New generation ironists Mac DeMarco and Foxygen simply wouldn't exist without him. It could even be argued that his lo-fi patchworking of vintage influences rubbed off on more sincere songwriters such as Kurt Vile, Jack Tatum, and Adam Granduciel. But as the retro-glow aesthetic Pink has pioneered since the mid-'90s has begun to seep into the mainstream, he suddenly appears to be not just an influential artist, but a necessary one.
If the norm is now for musicians to treat pop culture history like one massive Tumblr dashboard (recycle the good, omit the ugly), the hour-plus pom pom represents everything we'd prefer to ignore about the eras we romanticize endlessly. Pink's earworm synth odysseys never turn a blind eye toward the commercialism, condescension, and yes, sexism of the preceding decades' radio fodder. Heart-on-sleeve '80s FM-lovers get their dreams burlesqued by "Picture Me Gone," while the psychedelic set is forced to face up to the nauseating, School House Rock psych of "Plastic Raincoats in the Big Parade." "Nude Beach A Go-Go" is both dumber and catchier than any would-be indie surf anthem of recent years. Throughout, no one gets off easy, least of all Pink, whose personal neuroses (aging, sexual incompatibility, a Napoleon complex) are always bubbling just the album's slimy surfaces.
Which isn't to say he's playing moral crusader. Layered, pitch-shifted vocals allow him to assume an array of lurid roles, from the Cro-Magnon rocker of "Sexual Athletics" to the timid kid in the strip club of "Black Ballerina." Never does he deny the lewd gratification that comes with this territory; pom pom would be intolerable if it didn't dare revel in the sublime ridiculousness of the cheap, tragically dated, and deeply sleazy. One simply doesn't write a throwback single as picture-perfect (or is that Polaroid-imperfect?) as "Put Your Number in My Phone" without a command of and deep affection for the classic pop form, however cynically twisted that affection may be. (www.ariel-pink.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10