A light summertime air pervades Ariel Pink's weird, trashy pom pom
Ariel Pink, the ever prolific, polarising king of trashy synth pop has returned this year to our iPods and record players with pom pom, a fresh, consistent effort of beautifully tacky summer tunes. When you normally think of a typical summer album, you might think of buoyancy, warmth or tranquillity; this is not that kind of summer album.
If Purple Rain is a supermodel strutting around a crowded beach, then pom pom is a grown man splashing around wasted in an inflatable kiddy pool: deranged, daffy and just a little bit disconcerting. The seventeen songs span a myriad of genres (half of which Pink seems to have just created), meaning the 69 minutes – an unsurprising length considering his immaturity – go by extremely quickly.
The first Pink solo album without his Haunted Graffiti band, pom pom is at times bizarre, effervescent and unsettling; unsurprising considering the mind from which it has emanated. Mixing bubblegum sounding choruses with warped voices and dark, salacious subject manner, Pink’s psychedelic eccentricity is in full effect once again, ensuring that the follow-up effort to 2012′s Mature Themes contains anything but.
At various stages Pink brags about his sexual prowess (“Sexual Athletics”), watching girls at a nudist beach (“Nude Beach a Go-Go”), and getting kicked out of a strip club (“Black Ballerina”), displaying yet again the puerile insouciance which so many find off putting. The music of the latter sounds a bit like Beck in his Information days, but instead of lyrical poetry, the song’s narrative follows a spoken word skit in which Pink plays a bunch of different characters. For anyone else to release something like this as their second single it would be ludicrous. For Pink however, you almost expect it. Most pop music is make-believe and fantasy to some extent and Pink is no different, it’s just that his fantasies are weird, wild, and quite frankly, at times disturbing. But to so insolently ostracise him for this would be rash, as like your effervescent but politically incorrect friend, it’s strangely difficult to not still find a certain fondness for him.
Musically the album is a manifestation of lo-fi trash pop tunes heavily inspired by the throwaway pop of the 70s and 80s, with cheesy AM radio jingles and early morning children’s TV show theme songs all filtered through Pink’s deviant mind. As brash and bubblegum as the bright hot pink hair which often sits atop his head, the demented Flaming Lips meets Sesame Street “Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade”, haphazardly priced “Dinosaur Carebears”, gleefully ephemeral “Jell-o” and “Nude Beach A Go-Go” provide the album’s most obvious elements of Zappa-esque volatility.
Whilst incredibly gratifying, it has to be said though that when listening to these tracks it’s hard to escape the feeling you’re watching a B-movie or black comedy with their apparent low production values and obvious diatribes against the mainstream. Though if anything, like their cinematic counterparts, this only makes the songs even more enjoyable.
But for all of the album’s weirdness, there are definitely some comparatively straightforward, simple moments of summertime air which relentlessly entrench themselves into your consciousness.
Lead single “Put Your Number in My Phone” is a catchy, strangely wistful pop gem, “One Summer Night” imagines Mac DeMarco leading a high school prom slow dance, while “Lipstick” would be what Kraftwerk would sound like driving down a seedy LA back alley. Album closer “Dayzed Inn Daydreams” sounds at times like the Stones in their prime, “White Freckles” is the archetypal madcap Pink track, and lead by a resonant droning synth, the epic "Picture Me Gone" showcases Pink in an unusually deep moment of maudlin.
Veritably esoteric and arcane, pom pom is certainly not for everyone, but does provides an easier entry point to Pink’s distinctive trash pop stylings than some of his earlier lo-fi releases. Perhaps not because of its instant congeniality, but rather because of its curiously intoxicating allure, the album is endlessly replayable and unlike anything I’ve heard for quite some time. That’s not to say the music isn’t great because it really is brilliant; making you laugh, think and marvel all at the same time.
Think what you want about the guy, but there is no denying he is vastly unique in the music that he makes. Like Pink, we are all of course entitled to our opinions, but even the most stubborn would have to agree that pom pom is definitely one of the most unique and interesting albums to be released this year.