Thursday 13 November 2014

Review of 'Pom Pom' by Ariel Pink

This album is essentially a dude rambling sleazy nonsense over a bunch of lo-fi instrumentals that sound like they’re straight from eighties TV commercials. It’s cheesy. It’s silly. It's, for the most part, terribly uncool. It’s also among one of the best records I’ve heard all year.

Here’s why: Ariel Pink knows he’s an uncool motherfucker. It’s his shtick. He spends his songs portraying the loser and not the college-movie-misfit kind, but rather the genuine friendless creep who never gets the girl and never will. What’s impressive is that Ariel keeps a charmingly innocent tone to it all, rather than a tasteless rapey vibe. The characters he plays are so pitiful and so embarrassing, but likably and comically so.

The instrumentals, as retro and corny as they are, are also undeniably nostalgic. Part of me wants to hate the reverb-soaked synths and farting basslines and electronic panpipes but it’s all adorable. The lo-fi production helps. Some of the songs feel like they’re coming out of car speakers, giving the impression of one of those long childhood car journeys you’d spend staring out the backseat window. Lazy-guitar number ‘Put Your Number in my Phone’ and power ballad ‘Picture me Gone’ are good examples of this vibe. Other tracks aren’t quite as smooth and take the whacky cartoonish route instead such as ‘Dinosaur Carebears’.

This track sees a transition from dark-noise-rock with reverend-like vocals to cheap parping electronica to holiday park pop reggae. It’s one of the weirder moments on the record and will undoubtedly have many listeners raising their eyebrows sceptically. I personally love it’s inclusion and it serves as a reminder midway through the album that anything is possible on the next side.

This fragility and unpredictability is important in keeping any album engaging. The record isn’t a perfectly polished product. It’s got rough edges and bits that don’t quite work, deliberately so, just to remind you that nothing is perfect.

Hell, I’m still going to give the LP five stars though.