While Ariel Pink has been making waves in the media for comments made about one thing or another these days, its always important that we go back to the music that the artist is making. For Ariel Pink, that is this latest solo effort, Pom Pom. The album cover is plain and pink, with the album title scrawled on it in a carefree manner—you’re first introduction to the mix of whimsy and dementedly dark aspects that battle for your attention through the whole album.
Though some of the tracks that are the embodiment of pure fancy and whim are hilarious and entertaining, it’s difficult to imagine them being enjoyable in a live setting—and yes there is the divide between the live and recorded material that an artist creates, but it says something when I’m more focused on the ridiculous nature of a track then the music itself. “Jell-o,” besides the bits of shredding guitar solo provides an example of the absurd becoming banal. At this point in the record we’ve already been a bit beaten over the head with it, the constant undercurrent of mumbling voices in the background, the production making some numbers sound like they belong out of a children’s television program from the 90’s and so here is where the absurdly whimsical elements become so prevalent that they’re normalized and redundant.
It’s not all this way on Pom Pom—on the contrary, there’s some good numbers that held my attention with their balance. “Lipstick” is a glossy number of swirling darkness that easily stands out amidst the rest of the tracks. 80’s synths hollowly pipe and simmer through the number, creating a groove that begs to be got down to, and then Ariel Pink comes in on the vocals, singing through his lower register as he gives out some exposition for the little story within he is about to craft. This song isn’t entirely devoid of the shenanigans that are all over this album, but they are introduced in a controlled form, the ridiculous high pitched backing vocals fit right in with the fantastical world that Pink creates instead of simply being thrust at you. Same goes with following track “Not Enough Violence:” Ariel Pink is at home in the darkness of weird, but seems to flounder around in those numbers where its supposed to be the main event.
At the end of the lengthy, dare I say too lengthy, album, I have to say I’m honestly on board with only about half of the tracks on Pom Pom, the other half of which are burdened a little too heavily with elements of whimsy that don’t contribute really to the music. There are some great tracks on the album that break the confines of genre, but there are moments that have my finger poised to skip when Ariel Pink goes too far and it detracts from the sound. Though maybe I just don’t get it and this hour long mix is the perfect balance of fun and serious for you.