I must confess to being late to the Ariel Pink party. His debut album ‘House Arrest’ came out in 2002, completely under my radar. I stumbled across this new album, ‘Pom Pom’ whilst perusing Spotify for something new to listen to. I had no idea what to expect, but it was clear from the opening bars of track one ‘Plastic Raincoats In The Pink Parade’ that it was going to be something different to anything I’d ever heard before. As music writers, we like to put things in to boxes, and file everything into genres. Ariel Pink was never going to make this easy. It’s folk, indie, pop, rock, lo-fi, psychedelic, experimental, and above all, total insanity.
Ariel Pink (real name Ariel Marcus Rosenburg) is a Californian singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. And I don’t use that last term lightly. Every sound you can imagine is thrown into one big melting pot, to make the finished album. From traditional instruments, to kids toys to animal noises. His beats are not only recorded using drums, but also his mouth and his arm pits. He also records a lot of his material at home to give it that lo-if sound.
One foot is firmly lodged in the eighties throughout the album, whilst still always managing to sound fresh and new. This is most evident on ‘Lipstick,’ a song about a brutal murder, cleverly hidden behind an MOR synth track that could easily be recorded by Duran Duran back in their day. ‘Negativ Ed’ and ‘Goth Bomb’ cover the more punk side for fans of more traditional guitar lead rock.
Leading single ‘Put Your Number In My Phone’ and ‘One Summer Night’ are the closest you’ll get to a love song. Both tracks are set to acoustic guitars and with dreamy melodies that really show a different side to him. But don’t get too comfortable, things are about to get crazy again.
‘Dinosaur Carebears’ is probably the most mental thing you will hear throughout this collection of songs (or anywhere else for that matter) and merges three completely different tracks together as one, sounding like a kids TV theme on acid for a couple of minutes in the middle? ‘Nude Beach A Go-Go’ sounds like the track The Beach Boys always wanted to record but never dared, whilst ‘Sexual Athletics’ mixes spoken word lyrics, with guitar riffs that will rattle around in your head for hours after. There are often so many things going on at once that it is hard to keep up.
I often struggle with long albums. They can be filled with unnecessary padding. With sixteen tracks, I was worried this album was going to run out of steam by the end. But the whole album is brimming with ideas. Every track offers something new, right up to stand out single ‘Picture Me Gone’ which is tabbed on at the end. Obviously he is not a man afraid of experimenting with different sounds. I guess it’s because of this that he has produced the most interesting and original album of the year.