'Almost' one of the albums of the year
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes

It may be one of the oddest band names ever coined, but then, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti are one of the oddest bands. The brainchild of LA resident Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, the deliberately oddball solo outfit became a group in 2008 and came to prominence two years later with the release of ‘Before Today’. It was their first record on 4AD and their first as a group, and its goofy weirdness set the blogosphere alight at the same time as knocking, every so faintly, on the door of the mainstream.

Now, ‘Mature Themes’ presents Pink’s next foot forward, though the likelihood of that knock being heard is pretty slim - living up to the album’s title, first song ‘Kinski Assassin’ makes references to masturbation, whores and “blowjobs of death” over its jaunty, jolly tune, while ‘Hit The Spot’ is an electro-disco jam that contains the line “Sorry said the fanny to the hand”. Quite. But far from pointless and puerile vulgarity, à la Tenacious D’s ‘Fuck Her Gently’, the songs on ‘Mature Themes’ simply address, with varying degrees of subtlety, the reason that any of us are here.

But sex, sexuality and that primal compulsion of reproduction that propels most species on this planet are tempered, at times, with the other side of the coin - the ineffable, sooth-ing and, when it goes wrong, soul-destroying power of love - most notably on ‘Only In My Dreams’, a gorgeous, lilting ode to summer romance, albeit an imagined one.

When the whimsy - musical or lyrical - becomes too overpowering, as on ‘Schnitzel Boogie’ or the kitsch disco of ‘Pink Slime’ or the sleazy faux-soul of ‘Baby’, ‘Mature Themes’ falters. But when the songs succeed - as on the gothic, Bauhaus-inspired ‘Driftwood’ and the upbeat but surprisingly emotive ‘Live It Up’ - it’s clear that there is, beneath the quirky inaccessibility, some kind of twisted genius at play, but it’s too often shrouded in unnecessary experimentation. A bit of editing and self-control, and this could have been one of the albums of the year. But it’s precisely because there isn’t that, as with the last, many will say it is. It’s not. It’s getting there, but it’s not quite there yet.


Words by Mischa Pearlman


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