By Pat Gunther
From the very beginning of Ariel Pink’s latest LP Pom Pom, which was released via 4AD records on Nov. 17th, the listener is transported into a time machine. Drawing influences from an abundance of genres such as 80s glam rock, 60s surf rock and many others, Ariel Pink creates an undeniably catchy and playful L.A. aesthetic over the course of 17 tracks. Spanning 1 hour and 8 minutes, Pink’s 10th studio release brings one through a gamut of influences ranging from David Bowie to Black Sabbath and gothic rockers The Cure. Though disjointed at times, Pom Pom creates a world of constant experimentation and cochlear shifts that aid in smoothly transitioning from each distinct track.
The first track, “Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade”, written by Kim Fowley specifically for Ariel, is arguably the most infectious song of the entire year, and would surely fit in any big time commercial. Considering Pink’s reputation for being a pugnacious asshole, this is surprising. From this point on, however, not everything is happy go lucky. Tracks such as “Not Enough Violence” and “Goth Bomb” are far more aggressive in nature, and dripping with those Goth and early heavy metal influences that Pink harkens back to every now and then.
A number of tracks, such as “Negativ Ed” and “Lipstick” give off a strong postmodern 80s vibe, something Pink has peppered throughout this release. Though this is his first release without his band, The Haunted Graffiti, Pink continues to pay homage to those cuts that put him on the map in the late 90s and early 2000s. Moreover, Pink’s vast influences have helped him craft a decidedly unique sound that is unmistakable.
As a California native, Pink’s most impressive and head-bobbing, foot-tapping, torso-wiggling moments come in the form of his tributes to 60s surf-rock and folk, akin to The Beach Boys and other acts who dominated the musical landscape of the summer of love. Tracks like “Jell-O”, also written by Fowley in his hospital bed, and “Nude Beach A Go-Go” create an airy atmosphere laden with a sunny, breezy timbre that is impossible to ignore.
With all of these different sounds rearing their heads throughout, Ariel Pink’s latest effort truly has something for every casual listener to enjoy, regardless of the sometimes-nonsensical, esoteric lyrics that provide insight into the mind of such a polarizing musician. Despite all of this, the long run time makes it difficult to carve out space to listen to the album from cover to cover, which certainly enhances the experience.
Regardless of how you feel about the headline-making, name-calling Ariel Pink, his success on Pom Pom is undeniable. If you’re a fan of classic rock, electronic, soul and pretty much everything in between Pink’s first solo record is a must listen. Despite what some may have to say about the pink-haired, real-life Internet troll, Ariel Pink’s Pom Pom will surely be in the running for Album of the Year when those December lists roll around.