Review Summary: The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Sometimes I feel disillusioned and resort to rewriting my memories through daydreaming, compensating for a lack of substance and fulfilment. It’s not an everyday thing, but still, occasionally we like to imagine that one time we should’ve told so-and-so what we really
thought, and things would’ve been infinitely better. Maybe we could have tried harder in school, and so on and so forth. This is typical, but Ariel Pink is not. Pink has a unique retrospective flair in his brand of psych-pop, and eventually the boundary between whimsical silliness and subtle depression becomes questionable. It reminds me of a karaoke bar I went to a couple weeks ago (hey, it was a good time). At one moment I could laugh at the seventy-year-old man singing “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, but the sentiment changed when I imagined the song’s impact on him. It could have been his deceased wife’s favourite song, or something more innocuous. Who knows. The point is, Pom Pom
resembles a man making up for lost time and having a blast in the process, but with hints of unresolved personal trauma.
That’s not to say Ariel Pink hasn’t been busy lately. He’s recorded under several monikers with various musicians including John Maus, many of whom share his reverence for nostalgia. Earlier works boasted a hazy, lo-fi aesthetic, but the times are a-changin'. For better or worse, Pink’s sound has become more streamlined, though never sacrificing its charm. Taken purely at face value, it would be easy to distance yourself from Pink. He carries himself like a walking parody, unabashed and bombastic. Opener “Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade” is comical and sounds instantaneous - like you’re celebrating something trivial with all the splendour of… well, a parade. As the album progresses, Pom Pom
establishes itself as arguably the most consistently fun album Pink has released in recent years. Every song is distinct, and catchy melodies adorn tracks like “Put Your Number In My Phone” and the funky “Black Ballerina”. The sheer weirdness feels impromptu, yet is meticulously constructed when you perk your ears. There is so much going on with each track, like the ridiculous, sexual vocal excerpts on “Black Ballerina”, or the absurdity of “Jello”’s intro. Whether or not Ariel Pink actually takes himself seriously is a hot-button issue among fans and critics alike. Defusing this are “Picture Me Gone” and “Dayzed Inn Daydreams”, the latter of which closes the double album spectacularly. The melody is exhilarating, yet lonely; sometimes I like to drink, singing in front of the mirror like I’m carefree, and this song is tailor-fitted to this level of empty self-satisfaction.
Best-laid plans tend to go awry, as is often the case on Pom Pom
. With its eclectic vibe comes a disjointed progression; there are moments where humanity seeps through only to be counteracted by off-kilter mumbo jumbo. It’s facetious. For what it’s worth, Pom Pom
is a hefty collection of fun, unpredictable psych-pop jams, rife with catchy melodies and rich instrumentals. At the end, it’s unclear whether we’re supposed to laugh along or sympathize with the gloomier undertones. It’s anyone’s guess what addles the mind of Ariel Pink, and it doesn’t seem to matter. Pom Pom
strikes me as a rejuvenation, and a yearning for self-identification via forgotten tropes of the psychedelic era. It’s music from a genuine music lover and I can respect that. I don’t know if I’ll eventually turn into that old man I saw at the bar, but if the music I heard thirty-some-odd years prior still carries such significance, I’ll be content. That’s magic. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.