Following 2010's bizarro-funk breakthrough Before Today, featuring the incredibly catchy “Round and Round”, L.A.-based Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti has worked out a way to pull off a culmination of new wave, outdated synthpop, eurotrash and the weirder efforts of Frank Zappa. The result, Mature Themes, came out late August.
True to Pink’s apparent affection for all that is vintage, each song hails from a distinctive era – but stylistically, each song is an ingenious anachronism of the era it's channeling. Distortion-rich, echoing epic "Early Birds of Babylon" could be a space-age cross between dark wave and post-punk; then comes single "Only In My Dreams", a post-breakup daydream of 1960s-1970s upbeat pop. The album is topped off with a surprising stylistically-faithful cover of late-70s soul-pop love song “Baby” by Donnie & Joe Emerson, an out-of-place but welcomed addendum to an album that is somehow coherently all over the place.
It is well-documented by now that Pink’s modus operandi is to work with the worst of the worst in terms of the kitschiest music trends and genres that have entered into the modern collective consciousness. And since his sudden rise to indie acclaim and popularity after over a decade of largely unheard-of songwriting, it’s hard to tell whether he’s laughing at himself or at us… or with us.
The self-invented musician’s years spent writing and recording went from an experiment doomed to bedroom-floor obscurity to indie success after one of Pink's cassettes made their way onto the floor of Animal Collective's touring van. Fortunately for us, the east-coast masters of neo-psychedelia recognized his potential, and he was the first artist signed to their Paw Tracks label.
Pink has since become equally known for his confounding stage presence – charismatic one night, shutting down and refusing to sing the next (see: Coachella 2011). At least, as he and his Haunted Graffiti embark on a North American tour in support of Mature Themes, there is promise that Pink will put on a worthwhile spectacle: whether it’s for the music, his apparent love for women’s blouses, or for going AWOL mid-set. (Hopefully not. We believe in you, Ariel.)