Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Release Date: Aug 20, 12
Over the years, Ariel Pink has gone from a mysterious bubblegum pop weirdo to a sort-of famous mysterious bubblegum pop weirdo. And Ariel Pink has a humongous musical output. Under his own name, in various bands, and under his most famous form Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, the LA-native has released a many number of albums in the past ten years, and always manages to have hit-worthy songs in each of his albums (no matter how hit-or-miss the album may be). But after the success of Haunted Graffiti’s 2010 album Before Today, Ariel Pink’s been a bit quieter. This year shows Ariel Pink’s productivity to be on back on the up-rise as he released a collaboration album with lo-fi-wizard R. Stevie Moore, and also preps his ninth album with Haunted Graffiti, Mature Themes.
Mature Themes recalls his older material more than Before Today, but isn’t masked in tapedeck warp or AM static. Yet at the same time, Mature Themes sounds like one of those albums you could make fun of that came out in the late-70s/early-80s for being so ridiculously cheesy. While Ariel Pink may embrace this cheesiness, he takes it very seriously as well. For the first time in Haunted Graffiti’s career, the gang has released an album that feels rushed, and only features a few moments of true charm.
The album has a handful of tracks that stick immediately, but much of the album is so cartoonish that it could turn off even the most dedicated listener. The first sight of interest comes with the third track “Mature Themes,” a song that has a very Todd Rundgren-leaning debt-to-be-owed. Covered in church-organs and A Clockwork Orange-like synths, “Mature Themes” is a silly song about serious “mature themes.” “Only In My Dreams,” follows with Byrds-y jangle, and a whole lot of love, but the next set of songs “Driftwood” and “Early Birds of Babylon” are frustrating experiences. The psychedelia of the two aforementioned tunes are interesting, but the songs themselves result in annoyance and eye-rolling.
The album picks back up in the silly ode to Wienerschnitzel, the Nilsson-ish track “Schnitzel Boogie.” “Schnitzel Boogie” is slow, distorted and campy, but a really catchy song in the long run. The album just keeps going further and further into ultra-cheese territory with the next set of songs, but the last two songs are absolutely worth noting. Track twelve, the spaced-out drone pop song “Nostradamus & Me,” is a psychedelic experience that recalls laser-Floyd or dream sequences of Sega Genesis games. It’s over seven minutes, but truly doesn’t feel like it, as for seven minutes you disappear into another musical dimension. And though “Nostradamus & Me,” could have easily been a closer itself, Ariel Pink crafts “Baby,” not just his best album closer, but possibly his best song to date. “Baby” seems straight out of the Curtis Mayfield-songbook, as it’s slow guitar shuffle, backup vocal melodies, and broken Chicago-soul vocals recall a much more melancholic era. “Baby” is a classic soul track, where Ariel Pink kicks up his blues voice to much success.
And with “Baby,” the album comes to a close and you cannot truly be too mad at Ariel Pink for making an inconsistent album. Ariel Pink has a never-ending output of music, and for him to pack at least five amazing songs onto an album is still somewhat of an accomplishment. Could Haunted Graffiti have maybe done an EP instead? Possibly, but in modern times, EPs don’t sell very well, and Ariel Pink has enough songs to release a dozen or so EPs every year. Sure, Mature Themes might feel rushed, and might not be the Ariel Pink follow-up to Before Today we could have asked for, but it’s a alright album in it’s own right, and an album that at least has some exciting moments to be left with. Mature Themes may not be a bonafide classic, but it’s good enough for the time being. Chances are Ariel Pink will announce another new album or collaboration before the year’s end anyways.