Before Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian assumed fame as a feudal right, Angelyne cruised Los Angeles in her flamingo pink Corvette. License plate: ANGELNN. If her teased platinum wig or volleyball breasts led you to mistake her for a pornographic Dolly Parton, her true identity could be confirmed by the ubiquitous advertisements for herself that she purchased on billboards and bus shelters. Even though practically no one could tell you what she did or had done, she became an ’80s Southern California fixture as iconic and purely ornamental as the palm trees—the sunshine daydream to Elvira’s ghoulish noir. The tragedy is that she peaked before Bravo. Without a reality show to channel the day-to-day eccentricities of Angelyne and her candy-dyed Maltese, the O.G. avatar of “famous for being famous” had to settle for a bit part in Earth Girls Are Easy, a brief gubernatorial run, and a self-released album on her Pink Kitten imprint.
In a city where Mr. Incredible brawls with Batgirl while Chewbacca and Freddy Krueger vainly break it up, Angelyne naturally still finds work in the meet-n-greet racket. Her most recent appearance was yesterday at Origami Records in Echo Park, as part of Ariel Pink’s “Tantalising [sic] Tinsel-Town Take Over.” Should you have missed the mass email, the promotional docket for Ariel Pink’s latest schlock-opus Pom Pom included “Delicious Donuts and Delectable Ditties”; “Pretty in Pink. Permanently” (where “L.A.’s top manicure artists” did nails in only pink); and the “Luxuriously ‘L.A.’ Limo Listening Luau”. The latter offered a “ride in style” to “enjoy L.A.’s finest sites” in a “pink stretch job.” RSVP did not guarantee entrance.
It’s usually over-simplistic to extrapolate from a marketing scheme, but in Ariel Pink as with Angelyne, the medium is the message. The campy flair, smirking irony, and deliberately “retrolicious” alliteration matches the scarecrow-genius of his new album, Pom Pom. By wheeling out the inflatable mummy of Angelyne, the former Ariel Rosenberg wryly casts himself as her timeless prom date in the Hollywood Babylon of conniving prophets, sexualized excess, and sterling self-mythologizers.
A decade ago, Pink crept out of his rented room in an ashram off Crenshaw with reels of spindly, self-destructing love songs. Issued on Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks imprint, The Doldrums (and later Worn Copy) inspired chillwave and a lo-fi revival, as well as altering the perception of L.A. as an indie-rock backwater. Pink was the sunshine and noir dialect rolled into one, writing gorgeous heat-warped AM pop made to soundtrack driving off of a cliff on Mulholland or save an animal from drowning in a shimmering David Hockney swimming pool.
The intervening years have seen him transform from wraith to wolf. The romantic cult hero fantasies have given way to headlines that he’s the “most hated man in indie rock.” The analog necessity of his early work has been replaced by studio sheen, alienating those inclined towards the cassette hiss and rawness of his first wave. Pink’s compared social media vilification to the Rwandan genocide, dated porn stars, called Grimes “stupid and retarded” and scored a werewolf film—inevitably empathizing with the antagonist.
If you hate Ariel Pink, nothing in this review can possibly alter your opinion. You’ll scour the record for misogyny, say it’s too long, and roll your eyes at the helium disco-grooves about getting white freckles at the tanning salon and the amphetamine jingles for Jell-O. You think he’s funny or you don’t. If you do, the best engagement is one of suspended disbelief. After all, the CalArts alumnus remains the stylistic next-of-kin to Frank Zappa: satirical, divisive, and more interested in terraforming genres than neatly deconstructing them.
But for all the arch humor and affectation, Pink writes some of most wistful and peculiarly moving songs in contemporary music. “Put Your Number in My Phone” feels like David Crosby covering 2Pac’s “What’z Ya Phone #”. Despite the ’60s Sunset Strip jangle, the terrain shifts to the Eastside, a Silver Lake taco truck where Pink sweetly begs for the chance to get to know a girl better, before promptly blowing her off—which we hear in uncomfortably Drake-ian Voicemail detail. It’s the paradox at the heart of the collection and what ultimately makes it so compelling. Beyond catchy melodies, there’s a constant agitation between Pink’s moonlit dreams and everyday pessimism. He wants to be the romantic lover of fiction, but turns out to be just another undependable disappointment—but at least he admits it.
There’s “Sexual Athletics”, where the sleazoid of the first half makes preposterous pull-your-dick-out boasts about being the “Sex King on a velvet swing/ Waiting for my Alice in Wonderland.” The coda descends into lo-fi clatter and a tender, Four Seasons-falsetto about his life-long desire for a girlfriend. The ironic shell is always there, lest you get too close to treating the songs like journal entries, but the emotions remain conflicted and unconcealed.
If 2012’s Mature Themes found him recovering from a break-up by concocting Kinski Assassin Who Shagged Me daydreams during hungover wanderings to the Highland Park Wienerschnitzel, Pom Pom is Pink on the prowl—with its attendant sexploits and screwups. Sometimes, the tales are in villainous character. “Four Shadows” recasts Station to Station-era David Bowie as a comically morbid goth. “Black Ballerina” chronicles the night that “One-Eyed Willie” took “Shotgun Billy” to L.A.’s finest strip club for his first (short-lived) exotic dance experience. “Lipstick” concerns a predatory pick-up artist flashing his teeth and threatening to suck a girl into his darkness. There are new wave synthesizers, demands to be showered in blood, and Pink’s best “Hey Little Girl” baritone. It might be the finest Cure song since “Friday I’m in Love”.
Other times, there’s no need for subterfuge. The album’s finale, “Dayzed Inn Daydreams”, refurbishes an old track from Odditties Sodomies Vol. 1 with unnatural poignancy. The goofy voices and bipolar shifts are jettisoned for a straightforward psych-pop song in the vein of Love’s Forever Changes. It’s difficult not to read as a veiled statement of purpose: an anachronism to when his greatest fear was dying young and anonymous, a musical John Kennedy Toole, with hundreds of unheard songs his only hope for posthumous recognition.
The rest of the songs comprise crooked detours through Pink’s hometown. Fellow passengers include: Kim Fowley, the immemorial L.A. gadfly who played “hypophone” on Freak Out!, co-wrote with Warren Zevon, and managed the Runaways; Don Bolles, the drummer from the Germs; novelist Alex Kazemi (“Not Enough Violence”), and producer/writer Justin Raisen (Charli XCX, Sky Ferreira).
But the zigzags and bizarre pit stops are clearly at Pink’s behest. Opening track “Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade” finds him hallucinating cocaine banks, Tokyo nights, and Arkansas moons over what sounds like psychedelic Ringling Bros. polka. “Dinosaur Carebears” riffs on Syrian wedding music, shifts to a Tweedledum and Tweedledee melody, and then finds Pink role-calling random L.A. neighborhoods: Tarzana, Reseda, the City of Industry, Beverly Hiiiiiiilllls. Finally, the groove switches to a cosmic space dub.
This is no haven for conventional logic or normative restraint. “Negativ Ed” is pure Zappa homage, a gym class anthem for delinquent rebels in an ’80s B-movie. It’s ridiculous and superfluous, but also endearingly whimsical. The same goes for “Nude Beach a Go-Go”, a time warp to the Malibu surf rock of the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello era. But unlike the beach blanket bingo wholesomeness of the censored past, Pink reimagines it as the nude mating ritual it probably was.
One of Pink’s strongest gifts is making the absurd seem real and the real seem absurd. If this album has a closest predecessor in his catalog, it might be Worn Copy, with its weary refrain that “life in L.A. is so lonely.” His coping strategy remains a rich fantasy life, of which he’s occasionally the star and sometimes the sardonic observer. You can see it on “Picture Me Gone”, a haunting meditation about how digital technology will erase all physical evidence of our pasts. Set in the near future, the narrator’s age keeps changing. Even at his most sincere, there is something protean and shifty. Or as Pink seemingly indicts himself on “One Summer Night”: “Fantasies and fallacies/ All fairy tales and lies/ Time is running out yeah/ Better write these lines.” Or maybe you prefer “Exile on Frog Street”, in which Pink does his best karaoke of Jim Morrison circa “Celebration of the Lizard”. The song concerns an “enchanted frog… waiting for his Princess Charming to come and kiss him on his frog lips.” When the kiss finally comes, the toad turns into Ariel Pink. You hear the fairy tale magic twinkle of a Disney soundtrack. Then you hear a frog’s ribbit.
You can interpret this as another surreal metaphor in his search for enchanted love or chalk it up to a teenaged fixation with the Doors. Maybe a little of both. He can be the frog prince, Shotgun Billy, or ride shotgun in a pink corvette. He can be a rock’n’roller named Ariel from Beverly Hills, complete with his own billboards. And in a place where delusion, self-reinvention, and wish fulfillment have long been the principal cash crop, who are we to tell him otherwise?
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/1uIqgPD