Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes

This is dream pop, as it was intended.

Label: 4AD

Rating: 8

Andre Breton, the co-founder of the surrealist art movement of the early 20th Century would probably hate this album for the same reason he tried to oust Salvador Dali from the movement: when Dali, on numerous occasions, expressed that if he dreamt of getting amorous with Adolf Hitler, he would paint it, Breton became increasingly anxious about the stigma that would attach to his beloved movement – aligning surrealism with a regime which sought to destroy everything it stood for. However, what Dali was actually getting at was the need to stay as close to your own nature as possible, regardless of how disturbing or disgusting it was – this was the true surrealist manifesto.

This is something Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti seems to have nailed on ‘Mature Themes’. Nymphomania (‘Symphony Of The Nymph’), a boozy, late night meal (‘Schnitzel Boogie’), discovering the body’s pleasure centre (‘Is This The Best Spot’), performance anxiety (‘Mature Themes’) are just some of the random and scattered topics detailed via a seemingly free-flowing, stream of consciousness. And if we take this interpretation, Ariel Pink is certainly preoccupied with some pretty mature themes. But what’s remarkable about this album is how every banal detail is reproduced in excruciatingly high-resolution; the nice sentiments and images make you go “awww” and the uglier ones make you recoil in disgust, even if they’re not especially profound. But even more present is some genuinely humorous moments: Ariel Pink’s voice already has that “not really trying” quality, so in combination with lyrics like “I don’t mean to burn any bridges, but I can’t get enough of those bitches,” you can’t help but chuckle.

Musically, the album is cleaner and lighter than its predecessor, ‘Before Today’, taking the best parts of the old school Sunset Strip, California-sound and fashioning them into a disproportionately listenable whole: we’re talking, glistening surf guitars, Ray Manzarek-styled organs that vacillate chromatically, bouncy bass synths, cooing harmonies and some seriously counter-intuitive melodic progressions. If anything, ‘Mature Themes’, certainly puts the band’s song crafting skills at the forefront. For the most part, they are adept at making pop melodies minus excessive repetition or predictability without sacrificing a track’s listenability, though tracks like ‘Pink Slime’ really push it. ‘Symphony Of The Nymph’ sounds like it would be the perfect soundtrack for a sunrise in Xanadu. ‘Only In My Dreams’ has more of the easy-listening surf rock elements that wash over you quite gently. ‘Is This The Best Spot?’ is hilariously catchy and camp piece of robot-pop by way of the 1960’s. And a special mention must be made about the band’s cover of Joe and Donnie Emerson’s ‘Baby’, which is pretty damn smooth, thanks in no small part to a great vocal performance.

Overall, the album’s appeal seems to draw on the natural curiosity we have about the innermost workings of someone’s mind. Some people are just fascinating. Some people are just good at externalizing their inner monologue. Either way, there is just something fascinating and enticing about having someone’s most unadulterated thoughts presented to you because even if its all there for us to digest, we will never understand the machinations that brought them about in the first place – whether experiential, chemical or otherwise. And even if at times the album can be quite esoteric despite its pop veneer, there is a purity of expression that is addictive. This is dream pop, as it was intended. You might even call it “waking dream” pop.