Release Date: Sep 15, 2017
Record label: Mexican Summer
Ariel Pink's mere existence is a mystery. Not his physical form; that exists in California. But his consciousness? That is living and thriving in a place unknown to mankind; a place where any reality is feasible, where any form of music can be a pop song. His career - spanning well beyond the last two decades - has given him plenty of time and room to become the sharpest version of himself he can possibly be.
Bobby Jameson was a victim of hype. In the early 1960s, as the Beatles took over America, Jameson’s manager took a creative approach to promote the fledgling Los Angeles singer-songwriter. An increasingly ambitious series of ads appeared over several weeks in Billboard magazine. They began with a cryptic tease: a black-and-white silhouette of a man and a guitar, promising the “world’s next phenomenon.” When his face finally appeared, along with the announcement of his new record (“Bobby Jameson Says ‘I’m So Lonely,’” it read), he looked awkward, unprepared, frightened. The song tanked and the world moved on.
Indie provocateur Ariel Pink’s visibility has depended on a willingness to say anything for attention, controversy overshadowing uncertain talent. His songs, like his interviews, often teeter on the unlistenable edge of annoying, but push past the weaponised irony and you’ll find Another Weekend and Feels Like Heaven are his most seductive melodies since breakthrough album Before Today. Elsewhere, joyous pile-up pop mixes the He-Man theme, lo-fi new wave and 60s psych inside a fairground ride.
It makes sense that Ariel Pink found a kindred spirit in the late Bobby Jameson, the cult singer-songwriter and erstwhile “Mayor of the Sunset Strip,” because the subcultural 1960s Los Angeles in which Jameson held court has always been an aesthetic touchstone for Pink. Indeed, the list of Jameson.
LA’s Ariel Pink has long been in the business of off-kilter, sardonic, sleazy sounds that cut and paste 60s psychedelia, 70s prog and 80s synthpop with obvious adoration and more than a tinge of ironic pastiche. How, though, could he possibly filter all of it into a concept record? Dedicated to Bobby Jameson is ostensibly themed around the cult Californian singer from the 60s whose career was derailed by drugs and alcohol, except that it’s loaded with strange non-sequiturs – such as the krautrock-heavy Time to Meet Your God, and Santa’s in the Closet, high on cut-price Bowie vibes – which meander away from the central conceit. The moments where Pink truly connects with the Jameson myth – albeit with minimal context for the listener – are the most effective; Another Weekend and the Cure-nodding Feels Like Heaven are raw and authentic in their ennui and romance, while the title track channels Pink’s knack for facsimile into something productive, as he narrates Jameson’s struggles on the Sunset Strip.
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson marks a dark point in the twisting, unpredictable saga of Ariel Pink. Where his previous album — the delectable, defiantly proud pom pom — captured Pink in a moment of complete self-acceptance, flippantly pissing off journalists and penning ridiculous, masterful songs about white freckles and black ballerinas, his latest record finds him depressed in almost every sense of the word. Ostensibly narrating a saga about the life, death, and rebirth of one Bobby Jameson (a forgotten Californian musician whose world descended into a nightmare of unpaid royalties, drug abuse, and suicide attempts), the album finds Pink disillusioned with his own unexpected fame and success, returning to the well of pop music and finding that its pleasures don’t fulfill in quite the same way that they used to.
No, this isn’t Ariel Pink’s “normal” album, in case you were worried. After the nice but innocuous goth-pop of singles “Another Weekend” and “Feels Like Heaven”, what a relief it was to see titles like “Kitchen Witch” and “Revenge of the Iceman” among the tracklist! True, Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is a bit more stripped-down, somber and sober than the last few Pink joints, especially the broad comedy of Pom Pom. But it’s still unmistakably an album by the weirdest, flat-out funniest musician to net any sort of indie acclaim in the 2010s.
For even the perpetually young at heart, there comes a time when age invariably begins to leave a mark. Now just a year shy of 40, intrepid kinkster Ariel Pink tries coming to grips with this biological reality on .