When Ariel Pink and his Haunted Graffiti performed at Auckland’s Kings Arms this past March, the mercurial artist was singing lyrics written on ripped pieces of paper. Such is the random nature of the LA songwriter’s relationship with words. The same can be said for the lyrics to the dozen new songs found on Mature Themes, Pink’s second long player with this band.
The album begins with KInski Assassination and already the verbal fun begins… “A sea worthy vessel for the sperm headed brain, mother twin genesis went down with the plane”. In the next verse he sings “Australian-made gibblers in their steam-pocket slacks, backlit jacuzziwad will fondle yer ass”.
I’ll have what he’s having.
Yes, Ariel is a strange dude. And on the first few songs on Mature Themes, he reminds me of another strange dude…Frank Zappa, both vocally and musically. Track two…Is This The Best Spot?…finds Ariel singing about G-Spots and H-Bombs. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Over-Nite Sensation.
But Ariel has plenty of pop hooks in him as well. His strongest can be found in the jangly guitar-pop of Only In My Dreams, a track that sounds like a psychedelisized Association tune. It’s a rather sweet love song, with beautiful harmonies but you can tell there’s something weird just under the surface. Ween would be proud.
Driftwood has Pink crooning about the “bad breath of a cross-eyed goat, eating children for a Monday morning” Yum.
The shorter, song-oriented songs give way to long jams as the album progresses. Schnitzel Boogie starts out OK, but after he orders his burger, Ariel’s crackly chanting about his Schnitzel gets downright annoying. Live It Up outlasts its welcome as well, despite asking the musical question, “Dubstep or Duckstab?”
Farewell American Pastime finds Mr Pink getting all political on us, with mentions of Guantanamo and North Korea, over a smooth, mellow groove. While the atmospheric Nostradamus And Me features swishing electronica while the two take a late night stroll…”the Nos and me”.
For all its weirdness, Mature Themes ends on a rather lovely note…a cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson’s 1979 tune Baby. The track features the soulful stylings of Dam Funk and it’s wonderful…slow and mellow with an hypnotic bass line and a musical nod to The Flamingo’s doo-wop classic I Only Have Eyes For You.
There’s a lot going on on Mature Themes…not all of it works, some is frustrating, some juvenile and some brilliant. Have fun picking through the tracks and finding the bits you like.
Click here to listen to Is This The Best Spot from Mature Themes: