Ariel Pink is hard to categorize. From his beginnings as a bedroom auteur over a decade ago he has been a rather prolific indie artist keeping up a steady stream of content, even though he has moved away from lo-fi cassette recordings to a studio. Like the artist himself, Pom Pom, Ariel’s followup album to 2012’s Mature Themes, is difficult to describe. However, I will make my best attempt at a short summary. Pom Pom is like someone took the Mothers of Invention’s tongue firmly in cheek sense of humor, crossed it with the ominous schizophrenic menace of Syd Barrett’s later solo recordings, and viewed it through the psilocybin tinted lens of (mostly) 80’s pop music.
This blend of innocuous sounding retro pop music with sinister undertones can be seen in “Lipstick.” The track begins with cheesy 80’s synth riffs and blends with lyrics regarding murder, “I am a hunter I flash my teeth, I suck you into my darkness.” While the lyrical nature of “Lipstick” should be unsettling it is in a way less ominous than when Ariel’s songwriting is in an upbeat mode. “Put Your Number in My Phone” pays homage to an earlier decade in pop, sounding like a song that the previously mentioned Syd would have written if the technology existed in his era. However I would imagine that making a song in a throwback style about technology that did not exist at the time is the whole point of humor for the song.
“Goth Bomb” is a perfect imitation of a song a shitty garage band would write and its self-parody is evident on every level of its existence. From the recording quality reminiscent of someone leaving a tape-recorder on at a “jam session” in their mom’s basement to semi-incoherent lyrics and overdone guitar solos fitting of an overconfident young musician. “Sexual Aesthetic” is another song that is wearing the parody hat rather prominently. It begins with a wah-wah infused straight from a 70’s porn film sound and transition to a church-like choir complete with organ and ends with what is seemingly a tv jingle version of the song blended into the background.
Ariel Pink in Pom Pom is all over the place, but I wouldn’t expect anything else from him. While Pom Pom has some standouts I feel like more than a couple tracks could have been cut and the album wouln’t have suffered for it. Ariel Pink continues his weird brand of creativity in Pom Pom and manages to come out the other end with some good pop sensibilities as well as a good share of his own brand of humor. So I’d have to say to Ariel that I hope his crazy diamond continues to shine on and that I hope he manages to keep himself from following Syd Barrett’s sensibilities in areas other than music.