On November 18th, Ariel Pink (née Rosenberg) returns with pom pom, a new double album for 4AD records. The album is touted as “unfiltered Ariel, a pied piper of the absurd, with infectious tales of romance, murder, frog princes and Jell-O”. While these tales pop up throughout the record, a focus on the ‘absurd’ is an unfair detraction from Pink’s incredible talent as a songwriter. Pink has reared neo-pop classicism for the greater part of the millennium, stepping up his game with each release. pom pom is no exception, and is his defining statement as a writer to date.
“Put Your Number In My Phone”, pom pom’s lead single, is a call to a romantic partner to swap digits. It’s lush, recalling some of the best guitar-centric acts of the romantic 80s (shades of Vini Reilly, or Felt). Of pom pom, Ariel noted that it was the “least solo” record he has ever recorded, despite being the first credited exclusively to him. There’s no doubt that the prettier songs on the album are the ones that sound the most like a real band. At the time of writing this, there are no liner notes for individual guest musician’s roles, and it would be interesting to see a breakdown of who does what on a track-by-track basis. Songs that begin with live drums can just as quickly devolve into a lo-fi, all-Pink track (including trademark beat-box drums). In essence, pom pom proves that he has mastered both ends of the spectrum – be it through his early four track days or his first two studio records for 4AD, the two pair together seamlessly.
When he’s not colouring outside the lines of romance novels, Pink’s experiments with goofy humour and paranoid 80s coke-rock are just as fun to listen to. Legendary LA producer/manager Kim Fowley assisted in writing some of the songs on the record (non-sequitur lyrics on “Plastic Raincoats In The Pig Parade” read like outtakes from Outrageous). Tracks like “Nude Beach A Go Go” may not have the same surface complexity that “Put Your Number” does, but there’s a lot more going on than the first listen might lead you to believe. That’s another plus for pom pom: each revisit introduces new levels of complexity without detracting from the catchiness.
He’s fourteen albums deep, and Ariel Pink has proven he is still capable of surprising fans. In a career filled with watermarks, this is his best work yet – each of its 69 minutes unimaginably catchy and packed with surprises.