Ariel Pink is weird, or at least that’s what he’d want you to think. His look, the unsharpened Crayola hair and refusals to wear shirts under vests certainly fits the hype, but the music he makes comes out of an intensely structured pop place. Enough writers have pointed out that the “pop”-music artists like Pink have been tenuously constructing over the past decade is misremembered. Yet, it’s become so entwined with what people who didn’t live through 70’s and 80’s am/fm radio believe was the case that it doesn’t matter at this point. This newly perverted world of radio is filled with Roy Orbison’s waffling voice, enough fuzz to make you adjust the dial, and strictly Fab-Four melodies. Pink has just replaced Rocky Raccoon with a practically monk like ode to Schnitzel on the latest record, Mature Themes.
If Before Today was the star turn, the major-minor label release on 4AD and the 9.0 rating from Pitchfork, well then MT is an extension of his newfound major-minor profile. While his live shows are studies in disorganization, the lead singer as a volatile and uncompromising figure in front of a chagrined band, on Mature Themes Pink is about as studied and ordered as can be. The two singles making the rounds in advance of the album’s release date have practically been covered in bubble gum. “Only in My Dreams” cops some of the atmosphere of “Can’t Hear My Eyes” to solid results, but the true standout is the cover of recent Lights In The Attic excavation Donnie & Joe Emerson’s “Baby”, which puts Haunted Graffiti in their shabbiest prom tuxes. “Baby” doesn’t necessarily fit the rest of the album’s tone and almost sounds tacked on, it doesn’t even appear on the vinyl copy of the album, but it makes for a great mixtape track. “Baby” is an actual connection, some sort of clue into what actually makes Pink tick. In this case it’s a record from the late 70’s that barely left the Emerson’s house, which sounds about right for the guy.
Pink claims Mature Themes was the record he wanted to make during the recording Before Today. Whether or not this is complete bullshit is all part of Pink’s deal. He’s old fashioned in the sense of being a hassle, someone outside of the pleasant, down-to-earth lead singer that’s taken hold in the past few years. Pink is most definitely not down-to-earth, he’s a teen-beat polka dotted caricature of a rock star that would probably love to read that. In the lead-up to Mature Themes, it seems like there’s been a new out-there Pink quote blog cycle. A few months ago he announced he “broke up the band” on facebook only to have his publicist smooth it over soon after. The other day he said he was just a regular joe who wanted a family and a wife in the kitchen, which is the biggest bluff of all for the dainty man who appears on the cover of the August issue of The Wire with the tagline of “The Coming of the Beta Male.” We’ll see where MT takes him, but it’s probably not far from where he is now, which is about as good as it gets for someone trying to follow up their breakthrough.