July 13th, 2010
I’ll admit I don’t know much about this mysterious Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti. I know he has some Paw Tracks connection with Animal Collective (don’t worry, AC Haters, Pink’s new stuff doesn’t sound like them). I know he’s released about 8 albums in the last six years, not including 2010′s recent magnum opus Before Today (4AD). I know he comes from Beverly Hills, but I don’t know if he was raised in a cult (seems everyone from California these days was raised in a cult; or by wolves). So, yeah, I’ve done some scant WWW research, but what I’ve really found is that most opinions on Before Today are similarly complimentary.
My cursory take—after close to ten spins so far—is that much of the praise is deserved. Pink has a tantalizing way of creating artsy, fucked up pop songs with choice smatterings of found sound. And I’m not sure if this was intentional or not (thinking…not), but the ‘Haunted Graffiti’ moniker adopted by his backing band sure fits the descriptive bill when it comes to the record’s makeup. The artistic influences are intensely bold and colorful, extremely varied and (mostly) easy to identify, much like an eye-popping L-station graffiti mural. The music itself has an underlying surrealism to it, making it feel often voodoo-ish and possessed…haunted. But whatever the intent, it’s a small introductory descriptor that works well.
I think I’ve been taken by the album mostly due to the omnipresence of a style and sound owed to glam-rock-era David Bowie and theatrical orchestra-rockers ELO. Unexpected changes, undeniable hooks, and a well-intentioned way of making the familiar sound unique. “Butt-House Blondie”—which, yes, features porno sound clips during its climax—is vintage Aladdin Sane or Ziggy Stardust, an ostentatious psych-rock jam with trippy vocals and plenty of guitar shredding. “Round and Round” may just be the jam of the year, a soft-rock groover that illuminates at the same time it teases. That first refrain really recalls Julian Lennon’s 1984 hit “Too Late For Goodbyes”. The keyboard-and-bass-driven “Beverly Kills” evokes an urban, psychedelic R&B reminiscent of Prince. (I’d also be lying if the “can’t stop the press” line in there didn’t make me think of Vicki Vale and the Batdance.) Pretty sure we can classify “Can’t Hear My Eyes” as yacht rock and “Menopause Man” as cheeky soul-funk.
If you listen to one new song today, make it this one:
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti plays Neumos tonight with Puro Instinct and Magic Kids. $13 adv / 21+