Ariel Pink’s transformation from lo-fi outsider to toast of the indie town has happened seemingly in the blink of an eye. He’d been toiling away, mostly in obscurity, since the late 90’s releasing small numbers of home-recorded tapes here and there. But, after he began recording with Haunted Graffiti things changed for the L.A. native. Pink and his mates were signed to 4AD in 2009 and a year later they released Before Today, an album that reached by far the greatest number of listeners to date. It was a record that paid big dividends, most notably in the form of ‘Round and Round,’ a truly magnificent song. With Mature Themes, Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti are back for more weird psychedelic pop that pushes your typical understanding of just what accessible is.
The love of 70’s AM pop that coursed through Before Today is still thoroughly entrenched on Mature Themes, and one need look no further than the sun kissed flourish of ‘Only In My Dreams’, a tune that bleeds the sound of California. The easy listening vibe comes through on cheesy synth pop of ‘Symphony of the Nymph’, ‘Farewell American Primitive’ and ‘Pink Slime’ as well.
Pink’s nature as an outsider is much more apparent here though, and whereas Before Today seemed toned down, perhaps intentionally, the weird on Mature Themes is turned all the way up to 11. An easy point of reference for tracks like ‘Kinski Assassin’, ‘Schnitzel Boogie’, and ‘Live it Up’ is fellow Californian Frank Zappa.
Listeners searching for that ‘Round and Round’ moment will be pleased by the final track of the record. Pink and Co.’s cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson’s ‘Baby,’ which features L.A. beatmeister DāM-FunK, is a blue-eyed soul stunner and the perfect cherry on top of this sundae.
Mature Themes can be a challenge from time to time, but it never feels complacent, always searching for new and exciting ways to make things just a little more bizarre.