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Albums of 2014 #5: Ariel Pink: Pom Pom

If Ariel Pink is the kind of person who believes there is no such thing as bad publicity – and one strongly suspects that to be the case – it’s likely he spent much of the last couple of months rubbing his hands together gleefully like Scrooge McDuck counting his coins. LA’s weird-pop wizard was given a pretty hard time, and a fair amount of column inches, over a series of misogynistic/ misconstrued (delete as applicable) comments he made in interviews during the press campaign for latest album Pom Pom, but whilst the “controversy” was doubtless fascinating to some I for one just couldn’t bring myself to pay it much attention; partly because a lot of it seemed to be an unfairly balanced storm in a teacup, but mostly because I was too busy enjoying what was by far the best record of this divisive artist’s highlight-heavy career. Pom Pom was a true magnum opus, a mind-warping 17-song, 70-minute double-LP set that ricocheted between moods and genres like a speed-laced, tie-dyed Chihuahua in a rave-themed doggy sweet shop, Pink haphazardly slopping neon slime and jizz over an already garish collage made up from scraps of glam, punk, new wave, surf, disco, dub, goth, electro-Klezmer, kids’ TV themes and who-knows-what else. As usual, the most obvious reference point was Frank Zappa (whose one-time collaborator Kim Fowley contributed a number of understandably trippy lyrical assists from his hospital bed whilst on a morphine drip undergoing cancer treatment) but though the former’s juvenile spirit lived on in Pom Pom‘s satire-spiked psychedelic sleazy listening, the album also included the most indisputable evidence yet of Pink’s song-writing genius: “Put Your Number In My Phone” was a gorgeous slice of West Coast jangle pop, “Four Shadows” was full-on coke-fuelled Thin White Duke period Bowie, and “Goth Bomb” was snarling “Helter Skelter”-esque proto-metal; “Lipstick”, meanwhile, came across like the better-looking, smarter older brother of his own earlier hit “Round & Round”, whilst soft-focus torch song “Picture Me Gone” shocked by swapping sarcasm for real sentimentality. Of course, some lyrics – like the grubby strip-club scenarios in “Black Ballerina” – wouldn’t have helped persuade anyone Pink wasn’t a sexist pig, but as James Brown, John Lennon, R. Kelly and countless others have shown us, being a brilliant artist and being a pretty sucky human being aren’t mutually exclusive. Most people listening to Pom Pom would agree Ariel Pink was one or the other; the enlightened might say he was both, and love him all the more for it.


About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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