September 23rd, 2010 | Album reviews

amber halford

[audio:arielpink-roundandround.mp3|titles=Round And Round|artists=Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti]

(From Before Today out now on 4AD)

The man named Pink has done went and cracked the lower reaches of the almighty Billboard Top 200 Albums chart with this stupendous ear-wiggy pop montage. Such thunderbolt success might seem inexplicable to talented peers now scuffling for a few greasy pfennig at the edges of our globally renowned indie rock scene, but that’s nothing compared to the confusion wreaked among the rock critocracy. Even all the way over in Blighty, the Guardian makes much of his low-key mumbling eccentricity, as if the nation that produced Keith Moon and Vivian Stanshall can feign surprise at any rocker’s onstage behavior. All I can say is Pink’s sweet and bashful daffiness is old stuff to anyone who hangs out at the Smell and the band’s jigsaw approach to songcraft does justice to L.A.’s reigning mashup/fusion aesthetic. There’s the sunshine pop make-over of the Rockin’ Ramrods 1966 regional raveup “Bright Lit Blue Skies,” sort of like the Raspberries in their rare downer moments or Pete Ham most of the time. “L’estat (Acc. to the Widow’s Maid)” is more of the surreal same, with the win- some Yellow Balloon harmonies that waft by in no way obscuring a Zappaesque willingness to take weird widdershin turns. Other tracks like “Fright Night (Nevermore)” play like elevator music for one of the plushier high-rises in West Hell, and “Round and Round” rouses like the best 1980s English disco. “Butt-House Blondies” sports a bracingly gooey guitar opening and general teen-spiritualism while “Little Wig” is a glam rocker that disintegrates into Hendrixoid freakout. Impeccable Beefheart-level taste and musicianship keep this from mere acidhead karaoke, along with the oft-vicious lyrical sense, which now and then claws at the glossy AM Oldies surface like a rat drowning in cake icing. Well might the blogged heathen rage at the elegant Ed Gein chop-job Pink is doing on canonical pop. But in two years max, all their shit will sound like this, and the last redoubts of conventional wisdom won’t know how it happened or even if it did.

—Ron Garmon