Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
2005 was a strange year, I was an unmotivated barista with a family of mice living in the engine of my Subaru who was slowly falling for a bizarre pop crooner called Ariel Pink. Paw Tracks had begun releasing his formerly CD-R-only albums and as far as I was concerned, he was a musical visionary (this was before I knew who R. Stevie Moore was). In the subsequent seven years my relationship with Ariel has fractured, something about those early days has kept me hanging on. Each new and increasingly underwhelming release (or re-release, sometimes it’s hard to tell) has left me feeling like an Ariel Pink apologist, the terrified and abused housewife of a fading star. I’d babble to myself “Ok, so Loverboy isn’t GREAT, but it’s got two REALLY GOOD SONGS, so, you know…”, wringing my hands and forcing a smile. Thankfully and rather unexpectedly he made one of the best records of 2010 - Before Today sounded fresh and quelled fears that he’d lost whatever magic he had in making a “studio” album. As is the curse with the things you love, that album unknowingly poisoned me with expectation, so when I saw Mature Themes staring at me from across the record store (on my birthday, no less) I should have known better. Not that it’s a bad record, because it’s not. The first three tracks (“Kinski Assassin”, “Is This the Best Spot”, and “Mature Themes”) are great bursts of vintage Pink. However, their hooky synth sameness prepares you for possibly the least diverse record he’s ever made. Perhaps it’s the collaborative aspect of having a “band” now causing some of this banality, I guess it’s pointless to speculate, but I’ve always preferred AP’sHG as a dictatorship. The only other bright spots are the spacey nightclub jam “Symphony of the Nymph”, the depressingly joyous (or vice versa) “Live It Up” (slightly reminiscent of former collaborator John Maus’ current work), and the fluidly Eno-esque “Nostradamus and Me”. Mature Themes’ tendency to meander as often as impress is unfortunate, but hardly surprising. I had a feeling this review might lean toward the personal, mainly because they all do, but also because I’ve been living and dying with this guy a while now. This record seems detached, but oddly enough I don’t care the way I may have in the past. If you’re new to Ariel Pink DON’T start here – go buy the Doldrums and stay up all night playing Grand Theft Auto 3. It may not sound as good but it’ll mean more.