Tuesday 10 October 2017

Review of 'Dedicated To Bobby Jameson' by Ariel Pink

The lo-fi loving lunatic’s new LP is a celebration of the obscure.

Back in the 60s, a folk artist named Bobby Jameson rose to fame. He seemed set on being the next big pop sensation. However, instead of continuing his course for stardom, he instead chose to disappear into obscurity. He died in 2015, at which point indie cult weirdo Ariel Pink decided to create this tribute album.

To be honest, this isn’t really a tribute album at all, at least certainly not to Jameson's music. Dipping into genres as diverse as 80s synthpop and 70s prog, most of these sounds are nothing like the folksy tracks that Jameson wrote. Perhaps what Ariel Pink is really celebrating is Jameson’s defiance to go mainsteam - the fact that he deliberately chose the shadows over the limelight. Pink is a pure-bred outsider – not your average cool-dressing hipster-type like all the other acts paraded on Pitchfork. He’s genuinely weird, and this album is all about embracing his obscurity, just like Jameson, and refusing to fit in.

Pom Pom was arguably Pink’s catchiest record, with singalong anthems like ‘Put Your Number In My Phone’. He must have felt it was too poppy, because now he’s reined in the catchy hooks. The production meanwhile is much grainier like some damaged cassette tape you might find in your parent’s attic. It’s like he’s tried to drill his sound back into the underground.

That said, for the most part, it also feels less daring than Pom Pom did. The parping electronica and radio jingle choruses and risqué lyrics of tracks like ‘Black Ballerina’ and ‘Dinosaur Carebears’ made Pom Pom feel bravely goofy and uncool. On Dedicated To Bobby Jameson, the sounds are all much cooler – whether he be borrowing from The Cure or Steely Dan. It’s the stuff we’re used to hearing indie bands pay tribute to.

Take ‘Feels Like Heaven’ for example. It’s a dazzling reverb-slathered song with Smiths undertones, but when you listen to your lyrics you realise it’s your average nostalgic love song. There’s nothing smarmy or pitiful or creepy about, which has always been Ariel Pink’s shtick.

That isn’t to say he hasn’t lost his maverick charm altogether. ‘Time To Live’ is a noisy, utterly bonkers potpourri of metal riffs and trumpets before settling into a more easy-on-the-ears Adam-and-the-Ants style anthem. ‘Dreamdate Narcissist’ is utter lyrical gibberish with lines like ‘netflix and chill and we pick some dogs’ and ‘protein shake oooh’. And then there’s acting which see’s Ariel Pink offering digital warbling over smooth-ass funk. All of these are enough to satiate one’s fix of bizarre. Although not as unapologetically freakish as he was on Pom Pom, Pink’s still got a long way to go before he could ever be considered boringly normal.