Release Date: Nov 17, 2014
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian assumed fame as a feudal right, Angelyne cruised Los Angeles in her flamingo pink Corvette. License plate: ANGELNN. If her teased platinum wig or volleyball breasts led you to mistake her for a pornographic Dolly Parton, her true identity could be confirmed by the ubiquitous advertisements for herself that she purchased on billboards and bus shelters.
Even those who detest Ariel Pink's think piece-baiting persona will likely admit that, on some level, the L.A. pop savant is an important artist. New generation ironists Mac DeMarco and Foxygen simply wouldn't exist without him. It could even be argued that his lo-fi patchworking of vintage influences rubbed off on more sincere songwriters such as Kurt Vile, Jack Tatum, and Adam Granduciel.
I’ve already mentioned in PopMatters that Ariel Marcus Rosenberg is a pretty weird dude, but, lately, he’s been taking his eccentricity to a whole other level. Where do we begin? Well, he came out earlier this year to announce that he was working on material for the new Madonna album, but he then noted that Madge has been on a “downward slide” since her debut record – and he was hired to fix that. Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary then returned the volley with guns blazing on Twitter to say that Madonna has never heard of Mr.
A genius, a freak, a trailblazer, a creep; maybe a misogynist, or maybe just misunderstood. Los Angeles pop jester Ariel Marcus Rosenberg has been called many things in the decade since his 2004 breakthrough ‘The Doldrums’. Asked about a controversial interview in which he talked about being “maced by a feminist”, he recently told Pitchfork: “It’s not illegal to be an asshole.” Just last month, he was accused of misogyny by 4AD labelmate Grimes, among others, after commenting on the “downward slide” of Madonna’s career.
Beneath the unlikable veneer, there’s something about perpetual agitator Ariel Pink that makes him such an admirable figure. There’s hardly a smidgen of moral rectitude in the words he uses, sure, but it’s also his playful defense against the societal patterns of narrow-minded thought. The Highland Park, LA resident doesn’t care whether you choose to lean into some variant of liberal or conservative, and the targets he’s purposely chosen so far mostly fall into some kind of radical disequilibrium - whether it’s defending the Westboro Baptist Church for exercising free speech, or highlighting irrational discourse drawn from feminist rhetoric, Pink has been forced to don the role of delusional misogynist.
If Ariel Pink's self-defined 'retrolicious' musical ventures keep captivating fans and commentators for good reasons, his personal crusade against politically correctness during PR time sounds less -licious than retrograde. Some of us have long grown skeptical of (alleged) beta males who advocate 'alternative' forms of masculinity but end up perpetrating the same old tropes (a point already discussed elsewhere); who cross-dress for years acting all queer friendly, but then go on to 'praise' homophobic hate groups, just like that. If music should always come first, then this kind of self-professed trolling sounds counterproductive to say the least.
Two weeks ago, Adult Swim premiered a bizarre short film entitled “Too Many Cooks” that threw the internet into a frenzy. On its surface, “Too Many Cooks” riffs on the absurd, impractical familial zen of shows like Full House, The Brady Bunch, and Modern Family. But beneath that parody lies a commentary on our collective nostalgia fetish. The beginning of the video introduces the obvious sitcom tropes — constant smiling, oppressively happy theme music, a never-ending cast of characters and side plots — only to have things slowly spiral out of control down a chaotic rabbit hole of cultural signifiers.
The first work attributed solely to Ariel Pink since the late 2000s and his first solo album, Pom Pom finds an uneasy balance between his early days and his later albums with Haunted Graffiti for 4AD. With slightly murkier production values than either Before Today or Mature Themes, the sprawling double album nods to Pink's home-recording days, but features a far wider cast of collaborators -- including Spiritualized's Jason Pierce and rock polymath Kim Fowley -- than any of his previous music. Similarly, these songs encompass some of his most engaging pop and some of his most aggressively weird music.
The first half or so of pom pom proves Ariel Pink is still a pretty formidable songwriter. On songs like "Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade" and "White Freckles," Pink's compositions are frantic and colourful, bouncing from idea to bold idea and lyric to nonsensical lyric without ever crossing the line from stimulating to annoying. It's the details — the ominous descending bass lines on "Four Shadows," the whirling synth-wall choruses of "Not Enough Violence" — that make the well-structured, melodious songs truly pop, and they happily do so up until the end of the '50s rock'n'roll shimmy of "Goth Bomb.
With the Ariel Pink news cycle for this release, the actual album, pom pom, is nearly lost in shuffle. Pink bluntly discussed being approached to write songs for Madonna, coming off like a misogynist in the process, earning the wrath of feminist songwriter Grimes (among many others). This wasn’t enough to make Pink see the errors of his ways, as a recent interview with The Guardian found him not only defending his comments, but lashing out at Grimes, making himself all the more the villain.
Psychedelic gadabout Ariel Pink is a man of many versions, and various permutations. From being a buddy and contributor to the work of the beautiful, beatific creator of VHS pop R. Stevie Moore – who you’d be forgiven for seeing as Pink’s musical daddy – to being the headline star of the Haunted Graffiti project on Animal Collective’s Pawtracks label, one thing that’s inescapable about the controversial Californian dreampopper is his inclination towards endless collaboration.
Ariel Pink is one sleazy unicorn. "I'm a sexual athlete," the Los Angeles bedroom-pop trickster boasts on his latest bong-swirl odyssey. Pink's music manages to be at once glossy and murky, absurd and natural – pinging with ADD inventiveness from demented glam rock to lone-wolf disco to cartoon punk to zonked-out Sixties psych pop. Through it all, there's an undercurrent of the creepy vibe that has made Pink a bit of a villain in indie-rock circles.
Without provocateurs, pop would be a dull place. This goes double in left-field, where uncomfortable themes, antagonistic sounds and arrant silliness can frolic free of chart-pleasing constraints. Mavericks make reality a bit more bearable. Great artists don’t have to be nice people. So when ….
1. Re: shedding the “haunted graffiti” thing — Ariel Pink is an aesthete, and Haunted Graffiti was never a band; it was an aesthetic, much like the Magic Band or paying a bunch of Playboy Bunnies to live with you. That ignores the messy fact that Ariel Pink actually had and has a band (replete with legal issues), but the fact this is credited solely to His Pinkness lays down the law that the contents therein are of Ariel, and vice-versa.
Ariel Pink cuts a pretty divisive figure in indie music circles. His work over the last decade has oscillated wildly between beautiful weird wisps of '70s soft rock and off-kilter absurdist pop that's so aggressively strange it's practically littered with punch lines. Never has that dichotomy been better calibrated than on Pink's 2012 release Mature Themes, a record featuring his trusty backing band The Haunted Graffiti.
With a certain thumping inevitability, the new Ariel Pink album arrives surrounded by controversy, engendered by recent remarks from the mouth of its author. Controversy engendered by Ariel Pink’s remarks is such a regular occurrence that Pitchfork – the online magazine that voted his 2010 single Round and Round the best of the year – was able to compile a quiz, inviting readers to guess whether the opinions listed were those of the Californian musician or rightwing crank Glenn Beck. This time, the upset was initially caused by his claim that Madonna had asked to work with him because her career has been on “a downward slide” since 1983, and stoked by Ariel Pink comparing the subsequent online backlash to the Rwandan genocide, with himself in the role of the Tutsis, and adding for good measure that the really oppressed minority in the modern world were “nice white guys”.
The signs should’ve been obvious. If we look at a list of things Ariel Pink has gone and done in the last year, there’s a recurring theme. For instance, he’s appeared as a guest vocalist on a Stooges album sans Iggy Pop. He’s starred in a Donny & Joe Emerson music video. He’s also got ….
Ariel Pink was probably the prototypical home recorder of the ’00s on his Haunted Graffiti series of albums. He swore allegiance to R. Stevie Moore while nodding to Daniel Johnston and Guided By Voices by virtue of his melodic instincts alone. He favored inchoate pop gems obscured by tape hiss and rudimentary technology before blossoming into something of a studio virtuoso at the outset of the ’10s on his 4AD debut, Before Today, and later on 2012’s Mature Themes.
opinion byNATHAN WISNICKI There’s an oft-referenced and increasingly relevant exchange from an old Simpsons episode - never mind the context - where a mopey teenage concertgoer turns to his equally mopey friend and asks, “Are you being sarcastic, dude?” The resigned reply: “I don’t even know anymore. ” Certainly that exchange can stand for plenty of scenes and scenesters in the clickbait era, but it might apply best to Ariel Pink. The guy’s been churning out lo-fi indie psych-pop for well over a decade now, developing enough of a cult on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label to finally, err, “break through” - as much as can be expected for anyone who makes “lo-fi indie psych-pop,” anyway - on 4AD with 2010?s Before Today.
Trying to make sense of anything said or done by Ariel Pink is a Sisyphean task. At this point in his career, Pink is a notorious provocateur whose reputation as a controversial and experimental weirdo far precedes him. A recent series of internet rampages and Twitter feuds added to this reputation and served as the succés de scandale for the release of pom pom.
Musical auteur/provocateur Ariel Pink has made one of the most curiously poppish anti-pop records in recent memory with this long, at times indulgent solo disc. For all the deconstructing, texture and vocal tweaking, and sonic reassembling, at its heart this stays true to melody, structure, and hooks. With an overflow of ideas and invention, Pink mixes the silly and sublime, the whimsical and wise, in a Captain Crunch meets Captain Beefheart vibe.