Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today (2010): Review

Luckily for us, pop music has a vast array of disguises. Ariel Pink’s brand of bonkers psychedelia may sound casually whimsical to many, but upon deeper investigation “Before Today” is detailed in the classic traditions of 60s pop, the limited keyboard instrumentation of the 80s, all deliberately filtered to sound like it’s been transferred from master to an old ferric oxide cassette tape. There’s odd 70s TV theme styled instrumentals, catchy pop hooks, reverb drenched guitars and drifting synth swirls that all amount to an album that defies the obscurity it will undoubtedly find itself. It all feels like Pink and his band have created a long player that perpetuates the joy that great pop music can provide purely for the benefit of themselves and those willing to accept the fact that there is still room for sonic adventure within the genre, even if invention may be at saturation point. Equally, there’s no inference or apology to those who firmly believe that pop music is generated for commercial reward. This album will not sell vast copies; there’s no polished promo videos, no continual radio coverage, little artist promotion, and for that reason “Before Today” could be the listener’s great secret.

Pink’s Haunted Graffiti backing band certainly add a more rounded musical backdrop to his often hit and miss lo-fi bedroom escapades of the past. Although there’s still a shallow boxy sound at times, it’s infinitely easier on the ear than “House Arrest” or “Doldrums”. The punky/pop “Bright Lit Blue Skies” could be a West Coast homage to The Ramones with Spectoresque rhythms washed with Fifth Dimension harmony vocals. The bizarre time shifting on “L’estat” doesn’t detract from its bubblegum simplicity and an instrumental fade out that nods to early synth melodies pioneered by Vangelis allied with basic Kraftwerk rhythms. “Fright Night” is probably the single MGMT needed to promote “Congratulations”. The stellar “Round And Round” with its crushingly sweet chorus is probably Pink’s best song to date, underlining his fearless pursuit of a perfect pop song that works beyond the confines of mere verse/chorus/bridge. “Can’t Hear My Eyes” could be the soundtrack for an L.A beat combo brought up on a diet of “The Sound Of Bread”.

Indeed, it’s probably easy for the sneering “serious” music hacks to ridicule the hints of unfashionable influence that lace many moments of “Before Today”. Judge it for yourself, and don’t let the angry brigade muddy this trip into Ariel Pink’s world of pop oddities.

8/10

1 Hot Body Rub 2:26
2 Bright Lit Blue Skies 2:25
3 L’Estat (Acc. to the Widow’s Maid) 4:27
4 Fright Night (Nevermore) 3:35
5 Round and Round 5:09
6 Beverly Kills 3:57
7 Butt House Blondies 3:28
8 Little Wig 5:47
9 Can’t Hear My Eyes 3:19
10 Reminiscenes 2:34
11 Menopause Man 4:01
12 Revolution’s a Lie 3:45

Round And Round

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