18 November 2014
Ariel Pink - Pom Pom
Ariel Pink (aka Ariel Marcus Rosenberg) is a strange artist for me. I love some of his stuff, especially his 2010 album with the Haunted Graffiti 'Before Today' (Cleverly linked here). That album had enough good points to make me ignore some other issues I had with the record. Since then, I have listened to a few of his other albums and they have been a little hit and miss for my tastes. But as we draw to the end of the year, Mr Pink has released his 12th album and one of the first without the Haunted Graffiti. This album has been heavy pushed in the American press, with some of that publicity make its way across the Atlantic to my neck of the woods. I would be lying if I said before I start the review that I was excited at the idea of this album, it is quite long and for an avant-garde pop act that might be pushing it a bit far. However, there is a curiosity in me to find out where this crazy cat is at these days. So let us see what all the fuss is about....
Starting the album is "Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade"; with a keyboard work, psychedelic vibrations and sunshine vibrations, it has a sixties vibration and build. The first couple of listens of this song took a bit to get through, but this is because the song is way out on the left field that it would need a map to approach anything that resembles the mainstream or even alternative pop. The horse noises were particularly terrifying. However, after a while it does make sense and you do end up singing along to the chorus; still a bit of a mindfuck. "White Freckles" is the nearest I have heard to a band taking the spirit of the Sparks and making it their own. It is unnecessary complicated in places, over the top and ridiculous - and I just do not care as it is also a perfect example of maverick pop that is sadly missing from the hit parade and frowned upon by many folk. Pop music needs works like this; it needs to be louder than life and on the edge sometimes. Whilst not quite as jaw dropping as "Round And Round", it is still an amazing song. Track three is called "Four Shadows", it starts off very bright and cheery and then it goes into what I can only describe as funeral pop. With a 70’s flare and styling, it could easily been an extra from the ‘War Of The Worlds’ album by Jeff Wayne. The mixture of styles and patterns makes it a strange song to follow in places, but obviously this is by design. So far, so weird – ie – business as usual.
After this is “Lipstick” which is a tale told from the point of view of the murderer, who is wondering where he can next find a victim for his murderous desires. I do enjoy (if that is the right word) the narrative styling of the song, it feels like Dexter when he has strayed down the wrong path. The music is very laid back and feels very effortless, but there is nothing immediately grabbing about the tune; it is just a decent number which drifts on by. “Not Enough Violence” is an incredibly engaging track, part Kate Bush/part Ariel Pink strangeness and part bat crap crazy you have a recipe for a pop avant-garde story of pain and despair. The more this song plays, the more its beauty unfolds to the listener. In a year where there are many contenders for song of the year, this has to be one of at least two or three from this album which should be considered for that honour. “Put Your Number In My Phone” was the first track to be released from this album. To be honest, it is a little weak as a lead song; it is just a little too gentle and not immediate in grabbing the listeners’ attention or heart. It is a nice, pleasant number; but it is just not that strong of a song. “One Summer Night” seems to be Ariel Pink’s answer to ‘Night Time, My Time’ by Sky Ferreira (cleverly linked here), but done in with the Pink sense of style and timing. The pace of the song is very off beat and you are once again tapping your feet to a different beat. Well worth the effort on this song.
“Nude Beach A G-Go” is as you would imagine it, it is a surf rock anthem like you might have heard on old surfer films from the 60’s. As a tribute, it does have something about it; however as a song it feels a little bit too contrived for my tastes, not that it is a bad number but it is not to my tastes if I am honest. Following on is the glam rock anthem called “Goth Bomb”, this finds Ariel Pink in full rock mode and the solos are flowing throughout the number from beginning to end. Unlike “Nude Beach A Go-Go” you cannot fail to raise a smile to this number, the tongue is so firmly in the cheek that it is pointing out of the other end and wiggling for all to see. Next is “Dinosaur Carebears”.... I will just let you drink in that title for a few seconds and wish that you had came up with it yourself..... “Dinosaur Carebears”. As fucked up titles go, that is up there; but this is nothing compared to the lunacy that is unleashed onto the world when the song starts. The song sounds like a children’s cartoon nightmare and I love it, I love the crazy noises and strange time signatures that change at any one moment. Well played Mr Pink, well played.
“Negativ Ed” is the 11th number of the album and the rock is back in control again; this tale of wanting to be left alone and the crazy life that this character leads makes for a pogo anthem which could have been wrote by either punks or grunge stars; but it has been done by a pop maverick who has channelled those ideas, added some Zappa styling’s as well as his own tastes to make another great song. “Sexual Aesthetics” is next and comes across as a cross between a Black Sabbath riff (mainly “N.I.B”) and Zappa disco piss taking rock, followed on with a dose of strange sinister daydream music about wanting a girlfriend but getting a pervert. I am not sure what to think here – for the most part I like the song, but it does not quite sit right for me, there is something that I cannot put my finger on which makes it a hard tune for me to fall for. “Jell-o” is a song about jell-o (or jelly if you are from the UK); once again it has some fucked lyrics that are designed to confuse the audience. But fear not dear reader, the music is fantastic. I do not know why as it is back to the strange cartoon show styling, but once again it has that thing I loved about Zappa and his work. It is out on the run, heading towards a cliff and showing no sign of slowing down.
“Black Ballerina” meanwhile it reminds me of British electronica artist, Hot Chip and what I imagine they would sound like if they were from the 70's. This might not be the best track of the album, it is a little bit patchy in places; but the bit about the topless dancer makes me laugh a bit. I really not sure what to make of "Picture Me Gone", it feels like it is a Christmas tune in terms of pace but lyrically it is one of the most interesting songs of the whole album. Depending on my mood when I have heard this song I have either been enthralled or bemused by the tune. If there was a song to perfectly sum up an artist, I think this is the one for Ariel Pink. The penultimate tune of the album is called "Exile On Frog Street"; this feels once again like one of Zappa's musical plays that he would have put on albums such as 'Ahead Of Their Time'. Whilst it is not a patch on what Sir Z would have released, but it does at least show what Mr Pink is capable of creating. Ending this album is "Dayzed In Daydream" which starts with an acoustic opening about death; it reminds me of the style that the Cosmic Rough Riders used to create many years ago, it is a strangely morbid and cheery number to bring a curtain on this long, long, long album.
This album is far, far too long; by a good five tracks if I am honest and it is not as any of the tracks are bad, it is just seems as if Mr Pink did not know when to stop and decided to give us everything (a-la Red Hot Chili Peppers with Stadium Arcadium). When this album hits the spot, it is really good, I mean at a few points I thought it was going to be able to beat 'Before Tomorrow'. If this had have been just a few tracks shorter, it could have been stunning. What we have instead is a good album with more filler than is necessary and that feels a little sad. But overall the result is still a good album, but with a little bit more filler than necessary. If there is ever a deluxe version of this record, it will probably be five discs long.
7.5 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out
Top track - White Freckles
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Ariel Pink website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is a link to the album on Deezer
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