Wednesday, August 22, 2012

ALBUM REVIEW: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes

Though he'd long been known as a talented and prolific solo artist, Ariel Pink seems to have picked up quite a bit of steam since he brought in some more members and began making music as Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti in 2008. The extra personnel added additional layers to his already eccentric songwriting and the substantial attention garnered by 2010's Before Today meant more time and toys in the studio once it came time to record again. With all that going for them, the new Mature Themes is an exciting proposition, and it doesn't disappoint, in fact, it's kind of a pleasure; shiny, smart and at times unabashedly goofy, but consistently charming.

The biggest reference point for the off-kilter mutant sounds found on Mature Themes is probably early Brian Eno, but there's any number of incongruous things rattling around, dreamy pop, silky R&B, sleazy electro, and yet it all hangs together, even though it at times seems as if it's on the verge of all falling apart. It's a schizophrenic record, and also one that doesn't take itself too seriously; "Schnitzel Boogie" (you can guess what it's about) could fit right in on a Ween album. But again, it might be a hodge-podge of ideas, but they're melded into something cohesive, even if that may take a second listen to realize.

The biggest detriment to the album is the lyrics, which are simultaneously absurdist and sexed-up (it is called Mature Themes after all) in a way that sometimes recalls Beck's Midnite Vultures. For most of the album's 50-minute runtime, they stay on the right side of the line that separates crazy from corny, but couplets like "I don't mean to burn any bridges/But I can't get enough of these bitches" can't help but sound a bit ham-fisted and strained. That being said, it's not enough to derail the experience over all, and it is a unique experience. That uniqueness may turn a more cautious breed of listener off, but it should ensnare far more, which should give Pink and company even more momentum towards whatever strange place they're heading next.  

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