Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Ariel Pink is a classic example of outsider-turned-insider. Pink started off as a lo-fi artist recording out his own bedroom; it was Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label that hauled him out the bedroom and into the public sphere. As Pitchfork put it, Pink is "the strange kid who fucked around all semester and developed a reputation as a hopeless loser who then proceeded to blow everyone's minds at the talent show." Unfortunately, we're currently witnessing the aftermath of Pink’s 'talent show' moment. His recent live performances in particular have come under fire. All too often, reports emerge that Pink walked off stage halfway through a performance and refused to come back on, or that his set was marred by glib and insensitive remarks.
However, despite his eccentric and unpredictable manner, it's hard to argue with the fact that he is (at times) an incredibly talented artist. For instance, take his most recent album, Before Today- the track 'Round and Round' is sheer perfection. It is a million miles away from his previous raw and fuzzy output; it is a grand and swelling song, a carefully-constructed, multi-layered track, far greater than the sum of its parts. It was a song that said in spite of his throwaway tracks that are only admired by his most rabid cult followers, he has the potential for greatness.
But for a lot of his early fans, Before Today was a copout. It was mainly songs he’d been circulating for years, remastered and repackaged under the 'Haunted Graffiti' moniker. So when going into Mature Themes, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti had a tough task on their hands; writing new material that didn’t betray Pink’s lo-fi credentials, whilst still showcasing his glimpses of greatness. And, I hate to say it, but I think they failed. Sure, there are some terrific tracks on this album- the cover of Joe and Donnie Emerson’s 'Baby' and 'Only in My Dreams' in particular are master classes in pop songcraft. But these songs are spliced between more inaccessible, avant-garde efforts such as 'Schnitzel Boogie', which in comparison seem lazy and slightly bizarre.
Mature Themes could have been a masterful pop record. It could have been a inaccessible but rewarding lo-fi album, to be cherished by a select few. But in trying to be both, it succeeds at neither.