Words by Russell Carstens
Ariel Pink’s new album Pom Pom has been getting positive attention since its November 18th release, and for good reason: It strikes a pleasing balance between his penchant for weirdness and straightforward songwriting skills. Some of its tracks may leave listeners wondering why Pink puts energy into his strange side when he could continue impressing them with his more easily-digested (but still deeply intriguing) pop efforts. However, Pink doesn’t put himself in a box, and that’s a big part of what makes him interesting.
“Plastic Raincoats In The Shade” harkens back to quirky television jingles from the black-and-white era. Dizzying tape cuts interrupt throughout, giving it a surreal 60s pop feel in conjunction with strong melodies. The frantic, 8-bit-Nintendo vibe of “White Freckles” is the first of many wonderfully tape-saturated songs on the album. Similarly, “Lipstick” is a super-fun synth-pop adventure with a sunset beach vibe not unlike the 2009 Girls song “Headache,” written by Pink’s former colleague and longtime admirer Christopher Owens. Pink’s abilities to write strong, layered hooks while playing to the strengths of the lo-fi format to create deeply interwoven textures are impressive and inspiring.
The single “Put Your Number In My Phone” adds to Pink’s low key bedroom pop repertoire, but with a slight Glider-era My Bloody Valentine feel to it. If released in the 60s, it would’ve been applauded for its melodic sensibility and forward-thinking production values. An entire album of this would be a treat, but that isn’t how Pink operates. He opts instead for a gloriously eclectic approach which (depending on the listener) is either a treat or troublesome.
“One Summer Night” is another great pop tune, complimenting the surfy, fun Azelia Banks collaboration “Nude Beach A Go-Go.” The intimidatingly-heavy garage rock of “Goth Bomb” leaves eardrums aching with scraps of wild, overblown lead guitar straight off Raw Power. It would fit quite nicely on any Back From The Grave compilation. “Negativ Ed” whizzes by like quirky Devo-punk on a sugar high. Despite its length, “Picture Me Gone” doesn’t overstay its welcome. Instead, its ballad-esque qualities will lead listeners along, looking forward to where it’s headed.
Despite its many highlights, Pom Pom is not without just a few dull moments. “Four Shadows” showcases Pink’s campy and sci-fi side, but its not nearly as interesting as his more straightforward efforts. Also, the only remarkable thing about the excessively long “Not Enough Violence” is its title. Pom Pom concludes with the psych-folk “Dayzed Inn Daydreams,” balancing 60s sunshine-pop vibes with the Zappa-like strangeness that Pink is fond of. Pom Pom may not fit into a nice, neat package, but that’s just fine. No packaging on the planet could contain Pink’s personality or ambitions anyway.
© November 18th, 2014
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