Reviewed by Roy Trakin
Ariel Pink, pom pom (4AD)
The lo-fi garage-punk movement is blossoming as technology allows experimentation to flourish without the worry of expenses, and it has prompted a veritable avalanche of great, extensive psychedelic rock this year alone from the likes of War on Drugs, Real Estate, Ty Segall, Foxygen, Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett and now this not-so-nice Jewish boy from Beverly Hills, almost as tireless, and now ready to move on, with or without Madonna, a self-created “feud” which managed to generate some social media visibility.
But The Artist Formerly Known as Ariel Marcus Rosenberg is nothing if not resourceful, and he’s not going to waste his moment in the media spotlight, emerging with a stuffed, 17-song, hour-plus kaleidoscopic journey around the rock and roll block, past to present. This is his White Album, Freak Out and A Wizard, A True Star rolled into one, an acid-tinged, genre-tripping e-ticket ride, from hum-along pop ditties “Put Your Number in My Phone” and “Dayzed Inn Daydreams” to twisted excursions like “Dinosaur Carebears,” which starts out with a snake-charming middle eastern theme, then segues into a Raymond Scott-style carnival cartoon before making a right-hand turn into heavy dub reggae.
“White Freckles” has a speeded-up, Zappa-esque streak of sarcasm, while “Four Shadows” features Pink with a doomy, Bowie-like wailing croon, “Lipstick” a nod to the irresistible hook in Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” in the chorus line “Where are the girls now?” and “Not Enough Violence” a swirling prog-rock ode to a sadomasochistic sexual relationship. There are also stylistic nods to the classics: The Beatles (the Lennon/Harrison-ish “One Summer Night”), the Small Faces (“Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade”), the Beach Boys (the Bo Diddley beat and surf guitars of “Nude Beach a-Go-Go,” the swelling Brian Wilson vocal and groaning, Suicide wall of sound in “Picture Me Gone”), the Yardbirds (“Goth Bomb”), the Mothers (“Negativ Ed”) and even DEVO (the nonsensical tinker-toy “Jell-o”).
And while Pink is a serious musician, he’s not afraid to make fun of himself on tongue-in-cheek ditties like the “Sunshine of Your Love” quote in the yearning “Sexual Athletics” (“I’m the sex king on the velvet swing/Waiting for my Alice in Wonderland”), the trip to “L.A.’s hottest strip club” in the bouncy ‘80s Duran Duran funk beat of “Black Ballerina” and the croaking, Jimmy Webb-like narrative of “Exile on Frog Street,” with its “Day in the Life” denouement (“I’m just a scrambler/But you know I have the style”).
Ariel Pink epitomizes the 21st century post-Internet artist, throwing everything on the wall whether it sticks or not, and letting us sift through, take what we need and leave the rest. “At least my work is done,” he concludes in “Dayzed Inn Daydreams,” “The picture’s gone/But the memory lingers on.” It’s all about taking his ideas and turning them into reality. “I used to dream/Dream awake/Hide in the dark… I used to pray/But now I scream… No more daydreams.” Ariel Pink is for real, a rock star for the post-rock age, who pilfers pop history and puts it through his own cut-and-paste processor.