Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti is a curious animal, and that level of curiosity has only been amplified with their (his?) latest release. Now celebrating his 10th year recording as Ariel Pink, the nom de plume of Ariel Marcus Rosenberg, Mature Themes continues a discography of unclassifiable idiosyncrasy. The magic music corporate overlords of iTunes categorize it as “experimental,” and it’s hard to argue with that assessment, although it’s far more catchy and listenable than that label might make one think.
From the top it kicks off like some kind of Magnetic Fields meets Destroyer inside joke, with the David Byrne-esque questions as the break comes in: “Who sank my battleship? I sank my battleship! Ah la la la.” Then there’s something about “blowjobs of death” and “she-males hopped up on meth.” From there, the record only gets weirder. “Is This The Best Spot?” introduces a hip-hop flourish before exploding expectations with a quaint 80’s synth-pop via 60’s melodies and lyrics that demand to step “into my time warp now.” Maybe not the most original sentiment, but it’s done in such an original (and unpredictable) way, it’s impossible to fault them for it– is it a post-punk homage to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show?”
“Schnitzel Boogie” is so wantonly weird it borders on the Zappariffic, most tellingly the high kazoo-like vocal “nah nah nah’s” over the courses, which surely Pink would take as a compliment. The dialogue that involves ordering (a hamburger?) only adds to this divinely comedic moment.
“Symphony of the Nymph” takes the vibe of Kraftwerk’s “The Model” and reimagines The Doors’ “Riders Of The Storm” as a tale of a lesbian nymphomaniac, whipping and, well horseplay, complete with simulated whinnies. Not for nothing is this record called Mature Themes, although ironically, the title track is among the least scandalous, at least lyrically speaking.
“Early Birds of Babylon” sounds for all the world like a mid-period Damned b-side (when they were still slightly punk and before they went way goth), whereas “Only In My Dreams” somehow finds the nexus of Air Supply, 10cc and Alan Parsons Project.
If their earlier records were just as unclassifiable (and they were), then the only way Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti “fit in” is to be clustered with fellow fringe operators of today’s post-indie rock environment like SoCal XTC wannabes The Soviet League and Afternoon Records stablemates The Poison Control Center, Pomegranates and Yellow Ostrich.
“Pink Slime” is like Barnes & Barnes’ “Fish Heads” for the 21st century; it may be the first musical salute to that mysterious simulated beef by-product, although with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti it’s always unclear what type of meat is caught in their mouth.
It’s zany with a capital Z, throughout, and the uninitiated can be forgiven for thinking that this record is a joke, for here we have the silly superciliousness of Muse with the new hi-fi songcraft like a Magnetic Fields or Xiu Xiu, both of whom are also analogous in that they have a highly dominant front person, around whom everything revolves. It’s hard to pin down, but entertaining fun nonetheless.
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Mature Themes tracklist:
- “Kinski Assassin”
- “Is This the Best Spot?”
- “Mature Themes”
- “Only in My Dreams”
- “Early Birds of Babylon”
- “Schnitzel Boogie”
- “Symphony of the Nymph”
- “Pink Slime”
- “Farewell American Primitive”
- “Live It Up”
- “Nostradamus & Me”