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Arts and Culture

Ariel Pink: Genius, Moron, or Bong-zombie

On new album 'Mature Themes,' he's pretty much all three.

By Alex Hudson 20 Sep 2012 | TheTyee.ca

Alex Hudson writes for various music publications and runs a blog called Chipped Hip.

Listening to Mature Themes, the latest album from Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, it's hard not to speculate about the man behind these 13 wildly eclectic tunes. After all, only an idiot would open an album with a novelty tune as ridiculous as "Kinski Assassin," and yet only a genius could pen a song as sweetly melodic as "Only in My Dreams." Meanwhile, the seven-minute "Nostradamus & Me" is clearly the work of a perma-fried bong-zombie, and "Symphony of the Nymph" must be the brainchild of a skeezy perv.

In short, Ariel Pink comes across like a total fucking weirdo, albeit a very talented one. I can scarcely think of another musician who would dare to release a song as dementedly pointless as "Schnitzel Boogie," a lumbering fuzz-blues cut about the singer's apparent obsession with breaded meat. For the purposes of this article, I tried to count the number of times Pink repeats the word "schnitzel," but I lost count when I reached 50 at a little more than halfway through.

What's truly strange about the album is how meticulously these songs are produced. Although Pink may have begun his career by releasing a string of ultra-lo-fi bedroom recordings and rambling DIY experiments, Mature Themes was self-produced by the songwriter and his band in a Los Angeles studio space. The guitars jangle beautifully, the synths are tastefully atmospheric, and the gobbledegook lyrics are given a tasteful dose of reverb. It's lush without being overly slick, and it sounds great.

So the question is: is Pink kidding when he delivers lines about "suicide dumplings dropping testicle bombs" and "the blowjobs of death," as he does on the aforementioned "Kinski Assassin"? Surely no one would have invested so much time in arranging and recording what sounds like a drunken lark? It's hilarious, but I'm not entirely sure if Pink is in on the joke, so I feel a little guilty laughing.

Mature Themes isn't the best record to come out in 2012 -- it's far too silly for that -- but it might be the most fascinating. Is it a deeply personal emotional exorcism, or just goofy pieces of pop fluff? Is Ariel intentionally pulling my leg, or is he oblivious to the absurdity of it all?

The songwriter and his band will swing through Vancouver to perform at the Rickshaw Theatre on Sept. 27. Perhaps the live show will shed a little light on the mysterious persona of Ariel Pink -- but something tells me that the concert will be every bit as beguiling as the album.  [Tyee]

Read more: Music

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