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Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - House Arrest

  by Dominic B. Simpson

published: 23 / 12 / 2005

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - House Arrest
Label: Paw Tracks
Format: CD


Baffling, demanding and ulitmately grating 80's nostalgia kitsch from Ariel Pink, which despite being released on the Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label, long outstays its limited welcome

If any proof were needed that we live in postmodern times, Ariel Pink is the man to turn to. Like grown up men with Star Wars figure collections, or the Knightrider theme’s appearance on people’s mobile ring tones, he seems to exist purely as an exercise in 80’s nostalgia kitsch. Part of the extended family of Animal Collective cohorts, this is the third album that ‘s he’s released on the Animal Collective’s own label Paw Tracks. Anyone hoping for either the Animal Collective’s kaleidoscopic warped psychedelic pop explorations, or the strange, primitive electronic experiments of Terrestial Tones (a collaboration between AC’s Dave Portner and Black Dice’s Eric Copeland) will, however, be surprised to find that Ariel Pink – Ariel Rosenberg to his Mum – instead sounds like nothing like them at all. Instead, he’s some strange low-fi version of 80’s FM pop, but put through a warped telescope so that it sounds like Starship (or Phil Collins, for that matter) on acid. Recorded on a four track in the hills of Los Angeles, and sounding like it, his music appears like a wobbly lost cassette tape from the early 80’s, with a recording quality that makes Sonic Youth’s early material sound positively hi-tech in comparison. The uneven tape hiss and lo-fi aesthetic on parade here is actually one of the more interesting and integral aspects to focus on in an album that frequently crosses a fine line between fantastically warped genius and grating, self-indulgent crap (without it, it’s conceivable that his music would have no interesting reference point at all). It has to be said that the album mostly fits in the latter category, but 'House Arrest' – originally released in 2002 as part of a double-CD set – begins strongly, with the opening jangle of'Hardcore Pops Are Fun’s which is oddly reminiscent of the Smiths' 'Hand in Glove'; the Beach Boy harmonies soon come in, before a key change suddenly warps the song into an 80’s advert jangle, replete with toy-town drums. The cartoon feel is exacerbated towards the end of the song when Pink’s array of cheap synth riffs come into the fore. 'Interesting Results' is even better - ostensibly a brilliantly executed, upbeat Motown piece, with his reverbed-to-the-max echoing vocals, wonderfully sharp guitar riffs, tambourine and harmonies. Its idiosyncratic production nonetheless gives a strange not-quite-there feeling, as if there’s a party going on in another room in the house where the door is only half open, and the music is muffled. It’s at times like this that you can imagine this music only coming from a place like Los Angeles, with it’s endless sun-soaked highways, detoxed denizens, and palm-treed beaches, a place where the desert meets the sprawling metropolis. Brett Easton Ellis’ 'Less Than Zero', about bored teenagers in 80’s LA, could be seen as something as a literary antecedent to Ariel Pink’s music, with its endless obsession with narcissistic youth and high times, a soundtrack to driving in an open decked car with the wind blowing. Just as with Ellis’ book, however, there’s always a slightly skewered feeling, where things are not quite right. In the case of Ariel Pink, it’s doubtful that his music would ever find it’s way onto any major radio stations on the West Coast, despite it’s upbeat nature. Many of the songs seem to be bizarre, half-listenable collages, like a radio dial only half picking up a station playing soft rock, with West Coast Calamites beginning with a snatch of a sampled Byrds riff before inexplicably morphing into a weird cheesy mid-tempo croon that brings to mind the Bee Gees and Beach Boys at their finest. 'Flying Circles' takes Pink’s kitsch aesthetic to it’s extreme, employing a cheesy 80’s strap-on-keyboard riff, before a chorus that sounds like Duran Duran at full tilt; it sounds like a nightmarish version of something off the soundtrack to 'The Breakfast Club'. In between, the lingering sense that his radar is well beyond that of major radio station’s palate is made clear from the strange jabbering that takes up the verse, seemingly a collage of five different vocals put together. 'Getting High in the Mornin’ meanwhile repeats the banal phrase “I like to do it / Gotta work for it” in a faux-English rock star accent (similar to the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe) among some swirling phased wig-out keyboard noises that sound remarkably similar to those heard on Acid Mothers Temple records, before he dispenses with this pearl of wisdom: “Yes, I like the drugs / It’s fun to do / I support the use of it / I’m so down with getting high”. It’s the obsession with trashy noises and nostalgic exercises that becomes a defining part of the sound. Indeed, in a bizarre way, 'House Arrest' almost reads as what Royal Trux’s junky nightmare avant-collage 'Twin Infinitives' could have sounded like in an alternative universe, if Neil Hagarty and Jennifer Hereema were on acid instead of heroin. Unfortunately, that comparison frequently makes Ariel Pink sound a lot interesting than what he really is for a lot of this album – a irony laden spectacle, a Hoxton-in-spirit novelty who twists awful 80’s cocaine rock with “crazy” lo-fi production in order to appear “wacky” and “unique”. Seven of these grating, lobotomised tracks would have been fine; at 14, it’s pure torture. I can understand that aesthetically many may think he’s a misunderstood genius, a true auteur; however, that didn’t stop me feeling positively violent and suicidal after listening to this all the way through.

Track Listing:-
1 Hardcore Pops Are Fun
2 Interesting Results
3 West Coast Calamities
4 Flying Circles
5 Gettin´ High In The Morning
6 Helen
7 Every Night I Die At Miyagis
8 House Arrest
9 Alisa
10 The People I´m Not
11 Almost Waiting
12 Oceans Of Weep
13 Netherlands
14 Higher And Higher

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digital downloads


Round and Round (2010)
Floaty and ramshackle-sounding psychedelia on new vinyl only single from Los Angeles-based musician Ariel Pink, ruined by its revolting front cover
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