Ariel Pink wants you to know that this is strictly Ariel Pink’s album. You can call the man a lot of things, most of them would be deserved, but ‘stupid’ is not one of them. Yeah, he’s a bit of an idiot, maybe, but not stupid. The man’s getting old and he’s got legacy on his mind. So, for the first time since 2010’s breakthrough Before Today, Pink has dropped The Haunted Graffiti from his moniker. It’s a double album, containing 17 tracks, and instead of the standard A side, B side, C side, D side, the tracks on the vinyl edition of pom pom are split into sides P,I,N and K. I mean, come on, the album art is literally just solid pink with the album title scribbled across it. Somewhere along the inception/creation of pom pom, Pink realized that this was going to be his defining statement, and he wanted the world to very explicitly know that it was HIS.
True to all the exposition, pom pom is the most Ariel Pink record he has ever produced. Pink has spent the better part of two decades getting his proto-pop sound to a tee, and pom pom is his most singular release yet. You aren’t going to mistake any of the tracks here for anyone else on the planet; at this point, the only real reference points I can think of for Pink’s music are John Maus, R. Stevie Moore, and I dunno, maybe the fucking Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. As a result of this, your enjoyment of pom pom will ultimately boil down to whether or not you dig Pink’s output as a whole. Because with 17 tracks and 70 minutes in length, pom pom immerses you deep in his freaky, divisive world, and if you don’t have an open mind or sense of humour, I can imagine this record being pure torture. Personally, I love Ariel Pink, and I’m going to continue this review in the vein of someone who generally appreciates what this guy brings to the table. However, if you’ve ever had any reservations about Pink in the past, I’d advise you to stay as far away from this record as possible. Have fun listening to alt-j or whatever other joyless drivel you’re currently pretending to like, this album is not for you.
For the rest of us freaks out there, welcome to paradise. Pink has built us one HELL of a refuge with pom pom. I’ve never been to L.A., but I imagine this record must be what the city is like when you’re on lot of cheap drugs, all surreal flashy excitement with a deep murky darkness hidden underneath. It’s fitting that Pink’s big rollout promotion for pom pom involves a veritable week long takeover of the city; throughout the 17 tracks on display on pom pom, Pink presents himself as the living embodiment of every aspect of the city, and I mean every. Whether it be the happy-go-lucky surfer guy heading down to the beach, the glam rocker all speeded out on the way to the venue, the crooner at the nightclub, the pervert at the strip club, and everything in between, Pink dons these personalities so convincingly that it isn’t as much as he shifts character to fit their personas, rather, he mutates them until they fit in the canon of his own singular, idiosyncratic-as-fuck identity. Pink references himself as a ‘prince’ and ‘king’ multiple times across pom pom, and he does indeed rule over this twisted vision of Los Angeles with an ironic fist.
pom pom is Ariel Pink’s best album. What’s really astounding about this album is that there is its lack of filler tracks, which is something you more or less expect when confronted with a 17 song double album. Even the best double albums have instances where you question just how necessary the inclusion of a few of the tracks are, but Pink somehow managed to write 17 great ones that feel vitally important to the experience. Even lesser stakes tracks like “Nude Beach A Go-Go” and “Jell-o” reveal themselves to be captivating in their own bizarre little ways with repeated listens. And repeated listens is really the only way you’re going to be able to digest this freaky behemoth of an album.
Pink pulls out all the stops on pom pom; it’s weirder, heavier, catchier, and more ambitious than anything he’s put out in the past, and he knows it. Why else do you think he’d end the slbum with not one, not two, not three, but fucking four Pinkian epics all hovering around the six minute mark? It’s an audacious move to pack almost a third of the album’s length into the last 4 of 17 tracks, where most people would be approaching the exhaustion mark. But pom pom is that good. Above all else, Pink is an entertainer, and you WILL be entertained for the duration of this album.
What makes Pink a treat is just how god damn silly he is most of the time. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing out loud at certain tracks on pom pom. You’re supposed to! Do you actually think Pink is being serious when he belts out ‘negatory negatory ay ay ay ay’ on “Negativ Ed” or sings ‘there’s nooo clothes to weeear’ on “Nude Beach A Go-Go?” Hell no! I’m not even gonna get into “Dinosaur Carebears,” a track so absurd it truly has to be heard to be believed. But that’s the point. Pink makes really good songs that embrace humour, something that can’t be said for 99% of the rest of the ‘take me seriously I am so serious’ indie rock world. How many other artists can make their double album magnum opus as funny as it is epic? Humour and music often have trouble coexisting; the quality of one usually has to be compromised to allow for the other. Not in Pink’s world, though. Listening to pom pom, you get the sense that anything is possible where he is involved.
Over two years ago, talking about Mature Themes for my first ever review for Bearded Gentlemen Music, I stated how Ariel Pink was like some sort of pop alien transmitting signals from his own weirdo universe to our own. The time since has shown that, as a person, Pink is often too human, chock full of problematic morals and a tendency to run his mouth. On record though, with pom pom, Pink has cemented his place as the most essential extraterrestrial rockstar of our time. Put his album on your phone.
Ridiculous Made Up Genre of the Day: freak schlock pop rock