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Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Lover Boy

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Artist: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

Album: Lover Boy

Label: Ballbearings Pinatas

Review date: Jun. 10, 2006

Those hearing Ariel Pink for the first time, after sifting through the deluge of discourse surrounding his music, may wonder whether there is any chance that his songs could transcend the maze of representation swamping his practice. Thanks to the curiously evasive quality of his amassed work, Pink is steadily accruing a seductive mythology. He’s variously a hauntological cipher, a translator/decoder of 1970s American AM radio, a pop polymath rummaging through a backless closet of melody, a delusional star wannabe, a compulsive bedroom recording protégé, or, perhaps most contentiously, a songwriter whose output is predicated on an ability to mask brazen aesthetic borrowing with calculated mystique creation and obfuscatory lo-fi technique.

However, while it is in many ways nothing more than a ‘tissue of signs,’ Pink’s music sheathes your suspicions and suspends your doubts in the sleepy glow of his muddied productions. The songs on Lover Boy are affecting because they exist at a no-place nexus point, where nostalgia, formalism and borderline-cynical identity construction intersect. While in pop music there’s always some cultural distancing between ‘actual event’ and lyric form, Pink’s songs (more than many others) refer to mythical/fictional figures that populate pop’s landscape: there’s no one girl that fits “She’s My Girl” or “Older Than Her Years,” rather a ghostly conjunction conjured from Pink’s record collection. The knowing references to music culture (the NME/Melody Maker quip at the end of “I Don’t Need Enemies,” alongside its subtitle ‘Holy Shit! Single 45’) suggest an artist acutely aware of not just their complicity in pop process, but also of the necessity to hail that complicity.

None of this is said to denigrate Pink’s talents as a melodist and arranger. Time and familiarity have robbed his songs of some of their uncanny qualities, but “Don’t Talk To Strangers,” “So Glad” and “Ghosts” are particularly moving, with Pink draping velvet corridors of organ hum over tunes as richly arch as late-period Roxy Music or an emaciated Associates. A few of the bonus tracks falter: the noise bumble of “Blue Straws” is aimless and pointless, and “Phoebus Palast” struggles to find its way through a hall-of-mirrors of half-thought ideas. And yet, while Lover Boy may be ‘more of the same,’ it is both a) a good same and b) music that gains power as more of the story unfolds; each new Pink record plays (and wins) a rare double-game of exposure and mystification.

By Jon Dale

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