There is a fine line between the satirist and the jester. I’m still not sure which persona Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti adopts on their latest album, Mature Themes. How well could you sing about a schnitzel? To Ariel Pink the schnitzel is just another topic up for musical discussion, like love, or money, or nymphos—whose restless hearts will be embraced by the track “Symphony of the Nymph”. If your fascinations exist beyond food and sex, they also cover the topic of assassination. Food, love and politics—could we possibly ask anymore out of an album? Subjects aside, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti scales back lo-fi recording techniques and allows their pop instrumentals to shine through. Now, perhaps more than ever, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti begs the question, is there rhyme or reason?
Density. This album is arguably less dense than previous lo-fi styled tracks, like that of “Suicide Notation” on the album Odditties Sodomies. It is as though that cloud of noise that hung over previous project was blown away and beneath it a city that rarely sees sunny days. This clarity exposes the riffs for what they are—very catchy. Everything is smothered with pop melody. Lyrically, however, there is no amount of clarity, or focus, which could answer the question “why?” You just have to sit back and enjoy every oddity. Those who enjoyed growing up with Frank Zappa, or enjoy similar oddness with Animal Collective, will feel at home with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.
Mature Themes is two-faced in way that some tracks feel injected with unconventional personality and others feel like a ‘70s single, radio-ready and baited for pop culture. For instance, “Mature Theme”, which is a fantastic track, could very well be reincarnated from the ‘70s billboard 100. Your hypothetical 1970s self could listen to this track in your bedroom and your mother probably wouldn’t sneak in at night, snatch up the vinyl and store it way with your KISS records. But if you play “Symphony of the Nymph” you might find yourself in a Catholic reform school (even though, the track seems to draw a caricature of people obsessed with sex, disco and referring to women as bitches). Sidenote: listen very closely to “Symphony of the Nymph” and you’ll hear a Beatles sample.
Tracks that need multiple listens include “Kinski Assassin”, “Schnitzel Boogie”, and “Farewell American Primitive”. These tracks contain an added quality—they’re just fun. And “Baby”, too, though it is really unlike anything else on Mature Themes. It’s a soul track. And it’s damn good. You almost have to hear it to believe it. But if that’s the same vocalist we hear on the previous 12 tracks, then I commend that talent.
It’s my assumption that longtime fans of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti will begin to pull away from their new, less lo-fi sound. Sometimes it’s the most subtle transitions that create a rift in fan base. But for me, this album was refreshing. It’s inconsistent, and fun and I no longer care to discover the reason behind the music.