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Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Worn Copy

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Artist: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

Album: Worn Copy

Label: Paw Tracks

Review date: Apr. 20, 2005

As the Worn Copy’s release date approached, it touched off a fleeting debate on the Outsider Music Yahoo! Group. The character-collectors wanted to decide if Ariel Pink (a Los Angeles home-taper and protégé of the more calculating Animal Collective) is keepin’ it real. Of all the costumed oddities bouncing around the swollen psych/noise scene, Pink’s stuff - a half-century of pop history filtered through a sludge-smeared kaleidoscope - is the hippest thing that’s courted the ultimate Catch-22 in “weird music.”

He doesn’t quite qualify, natch, for the same reason Anton Newcombe doesn‘t. His approach remains a tad too referential, of itself and its primary sources. Just a tad. And yet, if his aesthetics recall the early hippie hucksterism of Beck or the let’s-suck-in-as-many-genres-as-possible stoner antics of Ween’s first three records, there’s no smirk here. Pink might not think like an outsider, but he certainly sings like one. He's not one to leave a good cliché unmangled, but he lacks the circumspection of a Brian Wilson. And he bears the loneliness of a Gary Wilson. If his music doesn’t derive exclusively from that loneliness, it’s nevertheless about that loneliness. Beneath the damp, gurgling production, painful in its cold intimacy, lurks everything that keeps us apart when the radio is on, everything that ever made a pop tune creepy.

Last year’s compendium The Doldrums still houses Pink’s most distinctive work. Worn Copy, though of greater ambition and discipline, is more easily graphed. It’s a tribute to art rock’s epic pretensions (the 10-minute saga “Trepanated Earth”). It’s a tribute to the antsy showtunes of ‘70s glam (the skittish, rockabilly-steeped “Immune to Emotion,” the grinning sneer of “Jules Lost His Jewels”). It even hits fun-kay ‘80s jogging soundtracks (“Credit,” “The Drummer”). It's simultaneous deconstruction and function.

Of course, the thing spans 70-plus minutes. That makes time for a few tracks that invoke nothing but Pink, but they’re the weakest here. Gear-grinders such as “Bloody! (Bagonia’s)” add nothing to the man’s canon; they simply establish his desire to make albums (with all the interludes and filler they entail), as opposed to collections of songs. On the other end, “Life In LA,” already noted by some critics for its supposed crossover potential, is little more than a dented hook looped for seven punishing minutes. (Disco doesn't holler out for deconstruction, or any sort of "treatment," really.) It’s the only song that actually uses the word “lonely,” which unnecessarily tips Pink’s hand.

Those are the two ends of the bell curve, and they dip lower than they should. However, the stuff in the middle, while it can hardly be separated from the pop establishment it honors and mocks, touches the ceiling with a unique, tender agony. Haunted graffiti, indeed.

By Emerson Dameron

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House Arrest

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Scared Famous

Before Today

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