Ariel Pink Pom Pom

Sean Bw Parker takes a sleazy neon-lit, electric kool-aid, fashioned hit from Ariel Pink‘s latest omnivorous album, Pom Pom.

Ariel Pink  ‘Pom Pom’  (4AD)  17th November 2014

The ageing, Miley Cyrus and Ke$ha collaborator Wayne Coyne – oh yes, also ringleader with The Flaming Lips, with his ever-unfurling salt and pepper hair and Brand-as-success ever-increasing hubris – has a lot to answer for. If not the recent, maddeningly obsequious cover album With A Little Help From My Fwends (puke), or a predecessor of it, a re-run of The Dark Side of the Moon, it’s for the retro-psychedelic Cali movement. Tame Impala, Pond and Ty Segall are all the flower love children of Coyne and producer Dave Fridmann, whether by recording, association, or free sex…and the pay-off now is that the progeny are outshining their creators by an impressive ratio.

Ariel Pink is another of these lucky/unlucky recipients of the sherbet halo. Pink (or Rosenburg, if you prefer) has been churning out albums either ruthlessly bedroom-solo or with his live band Haunted Graffiti for over a decade now. His art lies in the borderline-Asperger’s-music fan-as-recording-artist box, his internalising of the entire oeuvre of Pink Floyd, Human League and his favourite band The Cure solidifying its writer-as-stubborn-mthrfckr rationale into an unstoppable drive to keep writing and recording, seemingly oblivious to or dismissive of reception.

It’s in the nature of his influences where we find the core of Pink. The aforementioned, nervy post-punk or post-hippie Brits held an angry, narcissistic angst at the core of everything they did, weaving their more accessible sounds around such inexpressible re/opp/ression. Ariel Pink can’t help but carry these sounds and feelings as an obsession – all the way to Los Angeles, where after a stint at performing arts school, assembled his Cobain-esque looks and slacker, nonchalant charm into twinkling, ADD, post-MGMT shapes.

Anyone reading this will be familiar with the knowledge that the albums we (deep music lovers) treasure gain that status after many listens, with the initial listen eliciting such responses as ‘what the fuck was that?’ There is something within that hour though that makes you want to put it on again, to try and work out what the maker was on about. Do this about four times to the most carefully/inspirationally made albums, and you’re likely hooked, that hour’s opus to be locked forever under the skin, reminding you in your darkest moments of the joy of discovering excellent new sounds and feelings.

Pom Pom possesses this quality, maddeningly sequenced as it is from a bit ropey/surrealist at the start – ‘Plastic Raincoats at the Pig Parade’ coming over all Terry Gilliam and Gerald Scarfe sitting through a late Syd Barrett number – but with steadily increasing confidence and panache, particularly when potential biggie ‘One Summer Night’ rolls out its brilliantly catchy synth lines. Either by genius or reticence, Pink has placed the three high points last in an album of 17 tracks. ‘Picture Me Gone’, ‘Exiled on Frog Street’ (yes the Dada-esque surrealism makes a return) and ‘Dayzed Inn Daydreams’ representing a phenomenal triptych of song writing, playing out a rollercoaster with a maturity that he seems to be simultaneously capable of and yearning for.

It would be a pity if the mainstream ever embraced Ariel Pink, Nirvana-style. This is not a fear of success or a desire to keep a cool secret; it’s an acknowledgment of the fact that Pink’s charm and talent lies in his vulnerability, amateurism, and joyful naivety. In these multi-streamed, multi-sourced, endlessly referenced times, individual, idiosyncratic washes of concentrated Technicolor, spewing forth from the craniums of madmen, whilst being everywhere, are paradoxically in short supply: A rare bird to treasure.


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