Ariel Pink has said in the past that he sees his music as a form of therapy, and when he creates songs like the seventeen crowbarred on to ‘pom pom’ – his first ‘solo’ release since shedding the Haunted Graffiti part of his moniker, whatever that means – it doesn’t take much of a leap to imagine his work as the product of psychiatric healing. This, it seems, is the musical equivalent of the souvenir binder of drawings clutched under the arm of a departing asylum patient.

A rare example of that totem of rock opulence, the double LP, it takes even the ‘White Album’’s or ‘Freak Out!’’s oddest moments and jacks up the weirdness. When he takes the mic, it’s fair to say that Pink channels something that exists outside of the accepted norm. But that, surely, is the foremost reason for art’s very existence, and it is much too simple to label his work as outsider music and move on. That’s not to say that ‘pom pom’ isn’t self-indulgent. A few of the songs sit somewhere between nursery rhymes and radio jingles (See: the ad nauseum repeated phrases on ‘White Freckles’ or ‘Jell-O’’s grating chorus of, “I, I, I eat Jell-O / I, I, I eat corn.”), while ‘Dinosaur Carebears’ is as sugar-coatedly irritating as it sounds. Neither is the hair metal of ‘Negativ Ed’ and ‘Goth Bomb’, something which improves with repeated listens.

But ‘pom pom’ is, on the whole, much more than mere curio. Pink not only manages to shoehorn an impossible embarrassment of melodies into the album’s 69 minutes – aesthetically it covers a ridiculous amount of pop ground – but there is also a genuine emotional depth to this record; it’s just that it’s passed through the 36-year-old’s warped, sardonic lens first. Though Pink deals with reality by taking the piss, when you peel back that puerile-cum-deviant sense of humour, there is pain on ‘pom pom’. ‘Dayzed Inn Daydreams’ hides a deeper message behind its faux-Western cinematic bluster as the hero laments the difficulty his younger, painfully shy self had in engaging with the world. Lead single ‘Put Your Number In My Phone’, for all its whimsy, points to a very plain longing for more profound, more rewarding relationships with the opposite sex, while it isn’t difficult to decode the graver message in ‘Picture Me Gone’’s titular refrain as he imagines the photographs left on his cloud storage after he himself expires.

Pink recently claimed to have received overtures from Madonna’s ‘people’, who were supposedly interested in procuring his songwriting services. It’s testament to the strength of this unique pop talent that no matter how apocryphal that statement proves to be, it’s a move that would be one of Madge’s shrewdest.


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