Ariel Pink: ‘Pom Pom’ Album Review

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Ariel Pink, the DIY prince of analog, has released his third 4AD studio album and his first without the inclusion of his band The Haunted Graffiti. After recently being asked to work on a new Madonna record, Ariel Pink responded in his typical too-cool-for-school fashion and called her out on the “downward slide” since her debut album, making it fairly apparent that he had no interest in working with her. Ariel Pink, however, has always been a loner, an outcast, and an overall self-embodied ideal of what it means to live outside of the mainstream, both personally as well as musically. Pom Pom fits right into Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s recent two albums, Before Today and Mature Themes, in terms of low-fi production value, bizarre key changes, and extrapolations of familiar yet mundane sounds.

Pom Pom is a mystified cesspool containing all of your childhood dreams, nightmares, and subconscious associations. It’s an hour-long whirlwind of chaos that feels less like a collective journey, but rather a combination of separate happenings purposefully meshed together disjointedly. The album shuffles between gritty, guitar-driven raucousness (“Negativ Ed” and “Goth Bomb”), playful, childlike ambiguity (“Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade” and “Jell-o”), and 80s sentimental slow-jams (“Picture Me Gone” and “Dayzed Inn Daydreams”). Ariel Pink isn’t necessarily one to use music to bare his soul, but rather one to pick apart the bearings behind his soul.

First single, “Put Your Number in My Phone,” is a corny lo-fi love song, which highlights Ariel Pink’s dream-pop songwriting abilities. “Nude Beach a Go-Go” is along the same wavelengths, and is a classic, yet psychedelic nod to The Beach Boys. Toying around with some smooth synths, “White Freckles” is a lighthearted homage to white freckles that every Southern beach-goer can relate to. “Lipstick” shows off Ariel Pink’s blissful yet sinister approach. The chorus, “Red murder / Hidden in lipstick / Red murder / Hidden in love,” is a reminder that Ariel Pink is heavily influenced by Michael Jackson and admires his ominous lyrics.

Even the rather senseless track “Negativ Ed” stands out merely for its exuberant nature. Ariel Pink can pair seemingly disparate genres, sounds, moods, and lyrics into little idioms of musical gifts. “Jell-o” is another track that at first reads like a Pee-wee’s Playhouse “word of the day” or even a song from Yo Gabba Gabba! However, in between the obvious cracks is much more than what appears on the surface. Actually, both “Jell-o” and “Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade” were written from the hospital bed of DIY-entrepreneur, Kim Fowley, specifically for Ariel Pink. “Picture Me Gone,” is Ariel’s wonderful take on a love note from a father to his kid in a completely digital age: “I backed up all my pictures on my iCloud so you can’t see me when I die / I left my body somewhere down in Mexico / Give ‘Find My iPhone’ app a try.” Behind the grandiose and abstract, sits a very real Ariel Pink with a clear focus on his personal sense of storytelling.   

Pom Pom closes with the atypical, near-hearted “Dayzed Inn Daydreams,” which contains one of the most honest lyrics Ariel Pink has written to date. “I used to dream / Dream away / Hide in the dark / Fade into gray / I used to pray / But now I scream / Lord help me / No more daydreams.” When Ariel Pink can invert something ugly into something beautiful is when he’s at his finest. Here we see Ariel equating daydreaming to nightmares, and it feels as if he’s at his most primal in the daylight, when he’s exposed. Pom Pom features Ariel Pink at his peak. It’s a fresh take through a recombination of the past; it’s a sinister look at current American pop culture, and it’s a powdery ingest of the twisted mind of Ariel Pink.