Ariel Pink’s live shows precede a reputation for impermeable, almost alienating quirkiness and jangly monotony, making lead singer Ariel Rosenberg the target for boos and, worse, missiles. At a tastefully re-vamped pub in South London (there is what looks like a morbid miniature zoo – cats and elephants – glued upside down to the ceiling), the audience is attentive and friendly, rather than exactly captivated or ecstatic, but at least nobody throws anything, and the broken glass that covers the floor comes from half-empty drinks that are knocked over by people clambering up onto stools and tables to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.
What do they see? Not a whole lot, apart from Rosenberg strolling around the stage, asking for “more vocals” on his monitor every 5 minutes, and his fellow musicians on bass, guitar, drums and keyboards going about their respective jobs diligently, albeit with a knowing smirk – nobody is expecting any emotional outpours or the birth of a musical revolution. Rosenberg, looking not so much like Kurt Cobain but Michael Pitt doing his unkempt Cobain-pastiche, does his best to entertain, clamouring intelligible phrases and never letting his skinny frame rest. Musically, it’s not nearly as chaotic as some might have expected. There are Beatles melodies (‘Among Dreams’), 70’s organ stylings, and Rosenberg’s delivery staggers between a folky Joey Ramone and a ringmaster on Ritalin (‘For Kate I Wait’). Sadly, there are also drawn-out, cacophonous tangents and a distinct lack of dynamics.
It might be some people’s wet dream to listen to someone clatter his way through the garage rock/folk history of the last four decades, but would you talk to those people at a party? Exactly. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti play it safe tonight, and yet the room starts to empty before the final song. People’s curiosity, if nothing else, has been satisfied.
Originally published in issue 13 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. December 2009