Ariel Pink

(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

House Arrest (2003), 6.5/10
Loverboy (2003), 6/10
Worn Copy (2003), 5/10
The Doldrums (2004), 5.5/10
Scared Famous (2007), 5/10
Before Today (2010), 6/10
Mature Themes (2012), 6.5/10
Pom Pom (2014), 6/10
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (2017), 6/10

Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Ariel "Pink" Rosenberg, who had already self-produced several home-made cassettes, started his "Haunted Graffiti" project with the double-CD House Arrest/ Loverboy (Ballbearings Pinatas, 2003 - Paw Tracks, 2006). The general concept was simply a lo-fi revisitation of the golden age of the Sixties. House Arrest is not terribly interesting when it sounds like yet another Beatles cover band rehearsing in a garage (Hardcore Pops Are Fun) or when it mimicks pathetic easy-listening arias (West Coast Calamities). Pink truly excels in the more upbeat numbers that resurrect the anthemic hooks and jangly exuberance of folk-rock (Interesting Results) or the romantic march-like ditties a` la Turtles (Helen). A more experimental thrust yields funny alien creatures that are reminiscent of Frank Zappa's songs: Flying Circles, an odd hybrid of synth-pop and doo-wop, and the dub-voodoobilly of Almost Waiting. Also engaging are the hard-rocking psychedelic parody Gettin' High In The Morning and the atmospheric Alisa. Loverboy opted for a slicker sound, even venturing into dance clubs with Don't Talk To Strangers (a blend of dance-punk and rap) and She's My Girl (a new wave throwback related to Trio's Da Da Da). His revival project ranges from the Farfisa-ditties of the Sixties (Loverboy, the standout) to the emphatic melodrama of Nordic prog-rock (Poultry Head). The rest, unfortunately, is vastly inferior, with ventures into tedious middle-of-the-road rock, such as Every Night I Die At Miyagis, despite John Maus composing Ghosts around Guillaume de Machaut's rondeau Rose, Liz, Printemps, Verdure.

Worn Copy (Rhystop, 2003 - Paw Tracks, 2005) sounds like a collection of inferior leftovers from the two debut CDs, but it also marks a shift away from the "revivalist" approach. The lilting refrain of Trepanated Earth emerges out of a grueling eleven-minute collage. The one of Foilly Foilbles/GOLD follows an even more abstract preface. There are nods at the new wave (Artifact) and at the disco (The Drummer), but too often this album sounds like Frank Zappa mocking pop muzak but with neither the humor nor the genius (Immune to Emotion), although occasionally the instrumental parts are original and surreal (Creepshow).

The Doldrums (2004), originally recorded in 1999, presents a different artist, one who is less interested in mimicking the classics and more in crafting eerie atmospheres that have no immediate referent, such as Strange Fires, For Kate I Wait and especially the eleven-minute The Ballad Of Bobby Pyn. If Haunted Graffiti could be the manifesto of his revival art, these more mature pieces straddle the border between genres. The more or less folk-rock ditty Among Dreams is typical of the album's lazy, languid, casual, scruffy tone: it could be a catchy pop song but is instead deliberately disfigured and under-produced. Unfortunately, there is still too much filler (trivial melodies, uninspired playing, and really bad production, which might or might not be the whole point). To get to the mildly entertaining Let's Build A Campfire There one has to listen to too much crap.

Pre (Human Ear, 2006), credited to Ariel Rosenberg's Thrash and Burn, collects recordings from 1998.

Stranded at Two Harbors (UUAE, 2006), credited to Holy Shit, was a collaboration.

Scared Famous (Human Ear, 2007) dispensed with the confusing hybrids and focused on more straightforward songs, of which Howling At The Moon is the most accessible. The prankster of the Sixties is back in Scared Famous and Passing The Petal 2 You, but elsewhere his imitations falls flat. Many of them, in fact, sound like demented skits a` la Residents (Are You Gonna Look After My Boys?, Talking All The Time, The Kitchen Club). There is only one truly original score: Beefbud. The seven-minute acid jam Jesus Christ Came To Me In A Dream plods along aimlessly a bit too long.

Underground (2007, Vinyl International) resumes old recordings from 1998-99.

Oddities Sodomies Vol. 1 (Vinyl International, 2008) is performed by a children's choir.

Pink formed a proper rock group, Haunted Graffiti, that recorded Before Today (2010, 4AD) abandoning the old lo-fi stance. The instrumental funk soundtrack Hot Body Rub leads to well-behaved tunes such as the soul ballad Round And Round (one of his classics), the delicate soft-jazz elegy Can't Hear My Eyes, and the disco shuffle Beverly Kills amid really bad memories of vintage Bee Gees and Michael Jackson. The one truly anthemic hook appears in Butt House Blondies, although ruined by a guitar solo (ironically, given that he rarely injected solos in his songs). The one truly shaking rhythm appears in Revolution's A Lie, an electrifying voodoobilly worthy of the new wave.

FF>> (2010) collects recordings from 2000-2001 including the clownish sinth-pop of Intro / Where Does The Mind Go, the choral singalong May The Music Never Die, the jazzy Girl In A Tree, and especially the oneiric anthem The Kitchen Club.

Converted to slick pop productions, Ariel Pink delivered more retro-nostalgic hits on Mature Themes (4AD, 2012), starting with the jangling, lulling Byrds-ian ode On My Dreams. His revisionist peak, Symphony Of The Nymph, manages to mix dreamy Merseybeat refrain, country & western overtones and Sixties-evoking organ riffs (even an echo of the galloping sequence from Telstar). The bulk of the album is steeped into vintage 1960s sounds, from the ominous space-rock of Early Birds Of Babylon to the Doors-ian spleen of Farewell American Primitive. His demented self is still alive and kicking, but now draws directly from Zappa's early operettas, with results that range from excellent (Kinski Assassin) to amusing (Schnitzel Boogie) and to mediocre (Pink Slime). Pink even tackles the slow, sensual soul ballad Baby (a Donnie & Joe Emerson cover).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Giulio Bassanello)

Il cantautore di Los Angeles Ariel “Pink” Rosenberg, già auto-produttore di numerose audiocassette, ha iniziato il suo progetto “Haunted Graffiti” col doppio CD House Arrest / Loverboy (Ballbearings Pinatas, 2003 – Paw Tracks, 2006). L’idea generale era semplicemente una rivisitazione lo-fi dell’età dell’oro degli anni ’60. House Arrest è poco interessante quando sembra il prodotto dell’ennesima cover band dei Beatles che prova in un garage (Hardcore Pops Are Fun) o quando scimmiotta patetiche arie facilmente orecchiabili (West Coast Calamites). Pink eccelle nei numeri più allegri che resuscitano gli spunti epici e l’esuberanza tintinnante del folk-rock (Interesting Results) o le ariette romantiche marcianti in stile Turtles (Helen). Uno slancio ulteriormente sperimentale produce buffe creature aliene che ricordano le canzoni di Frank Zappa: Flying Circles, un curioso ibrido di synth-pop e doo-wop, e il dub-voodoobilly di Almost Waiting. Sono coinvolgenti anche la parodia hard-rock psichedelica di Gettin’ High In The Morning e l’atmosfera di Alisa. Loverboy preferisce un suono più sciolto, anche avventurandosi nella dance con Don’t Talk To Strangers (una miscela di dance-punk e rap) e She’s My Girl (un ritorno alla new wave vicino a Da Da Da dei Trio). I suoi intenti revivalistici spaziano dalle canzonette per organetto degli anni ’60 (Loverboy, il pezzo forte) al melodramma enfatico del prog-rock nordico (Poultry Head). Il resto, sfortunatamente, è notevolmente inferiore, nonostante il lavoro di John Maus in Ghosts, composta sul rondò di Guillaume de Machaut Rose, Liz, Printemps, Verdure.

Worn Copy (Rhystop, 2003 – Paw Tracks, 2005) sembra una collezione degli avanzi ei due CD di debutto, ma segna anche un allontanamento dalla ricerca di stile revivalistico. Il motivo melodioso di Trepanated Earth emerge da un collage estenuante di undici minuti; quello di Foilly Foilbles/GOLD segue un’introduzione ancora più astratta. Ci sono ammiccamenti alla new wave (Artifact) e alla disco (The Drummer), ma troppo spesso questo album suona come Frank Zappa senza humor né genio, benché occasionalmente le parti strumentali siano originali e surreali (Creepshow, Thespian City).

The Doldrums (2004), registrato originariamente nel 1999, presenta un artista diverso, meno interessato all’imitazione dei classici e più alla sapiente creazione di atmosfere angosciose senza immediati riferimenti musicali, come Strange Fires, For Kate I Wait e soprattutto The Ballad Of Bobby Pyn, di undici minuti. Se Haunted Graffiti può essere considerato il manifesto della sua arte revivalistica, questi pezzi più maturi cavalcano il confine tra più generi. Sfortunatamente, c’è ancora troppo materiale riempitivo (melodie triviali, esecuzione priva d’ispirazione, produzione troppo scadente, che potrebbe essere il punto critico, come no). Per arrivare a Let’s Build A Campfire There, moderatamente interessante, bisogna passare attraverso troppa spazzatura.

Pre (Human Ear, 2006), attribuito ad Ariel Rosenberg’s Thrash and Burn, raccoglie registrazioni dal 1998.

Stranded At Two Harbors (UUAE, 2006), attribuito agli Holy Shit, è una collaborazione.

Scared Famous (Human Ear, 2007) mette da parte gli ibridi confusi e si concentra su canzoni più dirette, delle quali Howling At The Moon è la più godibile. Il burlone dei Sixties torna con Scared Famous e Passing The Petal 2 You, ma altrove le sue imitazioni fanno fiasco. Molte di esse, infatti, sembrano folli parodie alla Residents (Are You Gonna Look After My Boys?, Talking All The Time, The Kitchen Club). C’è solo una traccia davvero originale: Beefbud. La acid jam da sette minuti di Jesus Christ Came To Me In A Dream arranca senza metà un po’ troppo a lungo.

Underground (2007, Vinyl International) riassume vecchie registrazioni del 1998-99.

Oddities Sodomies Vol. 1 (Vinyl International, 2008) è eseguito da un coro di bambini.

Pink forma un gruppo rock vero e proprio, gli Haunted Graffiti, con cui regstra Before Today (4AD, 2010) abbandonando la vecchia linea lo-fi. La colonna sonora funk strumentale Hot Body Rub contiene suoni ben congegnati, come la ballata soul Round And Round (uno dei suoi classici), la delicata elegia soft-jazz di Can’t Hear My Eyes, e il mix disco Beverly Kills in mezzo a brutti ricordi vintage di Bee Gees e Michael Jackson. L’unico vero pezzo epico appare in Butt House Blondies, anche se rovinato da un assolo di chitarra (ironicamente, giacché Pink inserisce di rado assoli nelle sue canzoni). Il pezzo dal ritmo davvero potente è Revolution’s A Lie, un elettrizzante voodoobilly degno della new wave.

FF>> (2010) contiene registrazioni del 2000-01, compreso il clownesco synth-pop di Intro / Where Does The Mind Go, la sessione corale May The Music Never Die, la jazzistica Girl In A Tree, e specialmente l’inno onirico The Kitchen Club.

Convertitosi a facili produzioni pop, Ariel Pink ha rilasciato altre hit retrò e nostalgiche in Mature Themes (4AD, 2012), a cominciare dalla melodiosa e dolce ode Byrds-iana On My Dreams. Il suo picco revivalistico Symphony Of The Nymph riesce a mescolare un surreale motivo Merseybeat, richiami al country/western e riff di organo anni ’60 (perfino un’eco della sequenza galoppante di Telstar). Il grosso dell’album è immerso in suoni vintage anni ’60, dallo space-rock infausto di Early Birds Of Babylon alla malinconia Doors-iana di Farewell American Primitive. Il suo lato folle è ancora vivo e vegeto, ma ora attinge direttamente dalle prime operette di Zappa, producendo risultati che spaziano dall’eccellente (Kinski Assassin) al divertente (Schnitzel Boogie) al mediocre (Pink Slime). Pink affronta anche la lenta e sensuale ballata soul Baby (una cover di Donnie e Joe Emerson).

Pom Pom (4AD, 2014), in general, is a disappointment, but it is still notable, first and foremost, for resurrecting the satanic genius of Kim Fowley (who once asked "is there a drummer in hell?" on his glorious masterpiece Outrageous). Fowley, still unafraid even at his old age of being associated with the kitchiest bubblegum refrains, co-wrote three of the best satirical jingles of the album: Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade, Nude Beach A G-Go and Jell-o. The peak of musical humor, however, comes with the breathless disco & spaghetti-western hoedown White Freckles, totally in line with Frank Zappa's absurdist aesthetics. There are two peaks of stylistic insanity: Exile On Frog Street and the cartoonish psychedelic fantasia of the first half of Dinosaur Carebears. The more serious mid-tempo pop of his singles Put Your Number in My Phone and Picture Me Gone instead, falls flat. If he had wanted to sell himself as a pop crooner, he would have stood better chances with the solemn, rousing Dayzed Inn Daydreams (something that Gordon Lightfoot might have done). Along the way he pokes fun at synth-pop (Lipstick, Not Enough Violence), at Every Brothers-tinged nostalgia One Summer Night, at surf music (Nude Beach A G-Go), at hard rock (Goth Bomb, the kind of parody that the Go-Go's could have turned into a hit, and Negativ Ed), at reggae (the second half of Dinosaur Carebears), at blues-rock (Sexual Athletics, with the riff of Cream's Sunshine of your Love), etc.

Ariel Pink's Dedicated to Bobby Jameson (Mexican Summer, 2017), dedicated to a Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter who never made it, is almost the exact opposite of Pom Pom: a simple collection of unassuming songs. The songs belong to different sides of the musician. There is a shameful commercial sold out that mimics the most sedated synth-pop of the 1980s (Feels Like Heaven and In the Closet) and evokes the most moronic dancefloor of his time (the electronic lounge soul litany Acting, the robotic funk jam Death Patrol, and, at best, the synthetic Frank Zappa-esque ditty Time to Meet Your God). On the other hand, the nostalgic element jumps to the forefront in Dedicated to Bobby Jameson that sounds like bubble-pop of the 1960s mixed with the Byrds' jangling guitar and the organ and bass motifs from the Doors' Light My Fire, and in Bubblegum Dreams, a Beach Boys-esque concoction with a celestial Byrds melody. The frenzied Dreamdate Narcissist could be a "nugget" from the psychedelic era of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators. The album takes no risks, except in the orgiastic pounding gothic march of Time to Live that steals the refrain from the Buggles's Video Killed the Radio Star.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2010 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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