Ariel Pink – Pom Pom (2LP)
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First truly solo work from Ariel Pink and featuring a cast of collaborators, including Spiritualized's Jason Pierce and rock polymath Kim Fowley.
While Pom Pom isn't as fragmented as the collections of his early work, the sides of Pink's music often feel polarized, especially compared to how well they complemented each other on Before Today and Mature Themes. The album's pop side might fare slightly better, at least on the first few listens: "Put Your Number in My Phone" may be even catchier than Before Today's "Round and Round" or Mature Themes' "Only in My Dreams" while "Dayzed Inn Daydreams" delivers more gauzy AM pop that sounds like it was channeled from the early '70s. Elsewhere, the breezily disturbing "Lipstick" could be an '80s new wave ballad written by Brian DePalma, and "Picture Me Gone" mixes mortality and technology into something equally witty and bittersweet. Some of Pom Pom's more overtly wacky tracks, like the novelty rock and musique concrètecollision of "Dinosaur Carebears," take a while time to warm up to, and some, like "Exile on Frog Street," are just too long. However, for every song like these, there's a "White Freckles," a fine tip of the hat to Frank Zappa's legacy. Likewise, Pink's Fowley collaborations feel like the passing of the torch from one eccentric to another, whether it's "Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade"'s surreal sugar high, "Jell-O"'s whitebread satire, or the risqué surf-pop of "Nude Beach a Go-Go". Indeed, sex is never far away on a Pink album, and "Sexual Athletics"' mix of cartoonish lust and romantic longing feels like Mature Themes in a nutshell.