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Album of the Month

Album: Pom Pom
Artist: Ariel Pink
Release Date: Nov 17, 2014
Label: 4AD

As appeared in the NDSU Spectrum


Review by Christine McClellan

Ariel Pink knows how to generate attention.

Despite not having created an album since 2012’s “Mature Themes,” Pink remained in the news with his typical irrational critiques about other pop artists, subsequently receiving the title of “indie rock’s most hated musician.” Pink’s music, however, is usually universally loved - and his latest release is no exception.

Straying away from Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, his band of more than 10 years, Pink went completely solo for the first time with “Pom Pom” – a 17-track, 69-minute-long double album featuring four sides (labeled P-I-N-K instead of A-B-C-D, respectively) of unadulterated weirdness and everything you’d expect from Pink’s complete creative control.

Only Pink would be able to add television static, horse neighs and duck quacks to his music (check “Negativ Ed” and “Exile on Frog Street”) and still be generally respected. Musically, the album could be compared to anything from a 1950s television jingle (“Jell-o”), children’s music and circus sounds to the Flaming Lips or David Bowie. Pink mixes punk and garage elements with experimental noise and psychedelic lyrics to create an album like nothing else – the closest comparison would be the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour,” but even that isn’t on the same level of bizarre.

Several of the songs featured on “Pom Pom”’s “P” and “I” sides follow the same formula: innocent, children’s music with animal noises and sing-along choruses, but lyrically about sex, drugs, or death. The opening track, “Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade,” sets the tone for the album: Pink sings “Oh yeah!” with a yelling child, followed by a xylophone melody and lyrics about cocaine use.

“Put Your Number in my Phone,” the single released by Pink in early September, returns loyal listeners with Pink’s classic 60s-inspired indie style, backed by acoustic guitar and female vocals. The style continues into the next track, “One Summer Night,” but ends abruptly with “Nude Beach a Go-Go,” an upbeat surf song once again channeling vintage commercial jingles.

The album gets gradually more and more out-of-control as it goes on, most noticeably with the “N” and “K” sides. Standout experimental punk track “Negativ Ed” lays a woman’s French screaming over frantic, out-of-tune guitar chords and church bells. “Sexual Athletics” begins reminiscent of 60s soul, with Pink’s speaking voice spelling “s-e-x-u-a-l,” then changes completely into another television jingle. “Black Ballerina” may be the strangest of them all, featuring spoken dialogue between a pirate, a stripper, and a nervous teenage boy.

“Pom Pom” is Ariel Pink’s most outrageous collections of songs to date, and though the individual tracks seem chaotic in nature – it’s a controlled chaos. This isn’t necessarily an album that everybody will have on repeat for the rest of the year, but it’s a near-masterpiece, and definitely worth a listen, nonetheless.

Pink is a musical genius, combining elements of opposite genres to create something unheard of. “Pom Pom” is experimental, trippy, and obnoxious, but an album that stands out from the rest. This album deserves and requires close attention, and will keep Pink’s name in the news for years – just as he likes.

 

Recommended Tracks: “Negativ Ed,” “Put Your Number in My Phone,” “Lipstick”