Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Bright Lit Blue Skies

The AH-AHHHH! bit of the last caption doesn’t mean we’re reviewing LCD Soundsystem, by the way…


Anthony Easton: There should be more 2 minute pop songs, esp. ones that have a sweet little surf guitar introduction.

Martin Skidmore: What if the pop-rock acts of decades ago couldn’t sing, and were determinedly lo-fi? If you replaced Alex Chilton in the Box Tops, say, with someone who sang in flat and nasal tones, and the band played with the microphones set up in a different room? It seems a shame that someone with an obvious talent for writing a pop song ruins it by performing it in such a desperately unappealing way. Perhaps someone can cover this and make something good out of it.

Alex Macpherson: Not what I expected: from the little I’ve heard by Ariel Pink (his Worn Copy album), his shtick seemed to be “sounds like he records his songs underwater”. No more, it seems: “Bright Lit Blue Skies” is as straightforward as sun on a beach, unimaginative surfer rock saved by a winning guitar line that never seems to run out of tune; it reminds me of Aimee Mann’s old dictum of perpetual melody. A pity that neither song nor performance are anywhere near matching it.

Chuck Eddy: For some reason I was under the impression that these people (this person? whatever) were some sort of experimental art-noise outfit — which might make sense if simply lacking concrete form was enough, though I’m not even sure that’s on purpose. Still, this is more rhythmically fluid than I expected — groove sounds pilfered from the English Beat, maybe. Which might place the cut in the general vicinity of Vampire Weekend if not for its clutzier tune, and whitebread hippie-cult harmonies that I’m willing to believe are no more lame than anything Polyphonic Spree ever did.

Katherine St Asaph: I’d given up on Ariel Pink when I realized he wasn’t an up-and-coming female songwriter marshalling an army of spooky marimbas and knickknacks like I had imagined, which I realize is unfair. It’s still a letdown hearing his voice; recording technology must have finally mastered synesthesia because I can just see him sneering his way through each verse. Thank god someone’s had the insight to hide him in harmony vocals for the choruses, masking the bitterness so the sun-drenched guitars can shine instead. Then he starts to sing again, but hey, it’s short.

Michaelangelo Matos: The Hawaii Five-O TV-show theme sounds like it’s been sandbagged in place somewhere in here, along with plenty of Mod London and some Jack Jones, but ultimately that kind of detail work is far more interesting to work out than any of what’s being sung or expressed. There’s pleasure in it for sure, but I find it thin.

Alfred Soto: Like a lost AM would-be classic, this caught me up short with prickly guitar and organ billows. Once the sound faded, I had to listen to the song, which reminds me why this kind of thing was lost.

Jonathan Bogart: Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies, Rickenbacker jangle, and cooing, easygoing lyrics make this sound like California 1969 all over again. It’s a sweet spot, no doubt, but pretty dinged-up from being hit so often and so hard.

Hazel Robinson: I am conflicted about the fact that if (defunct) The Organ did this I would probably play it all day, despite the fact it is at best a slightly amateurish pastiche of things I don’t especially like.

9 Responses to “Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Bright Lit Blue Skies”

  1. I dunno, Martin: Ariel Pink doesn’t sing much worse than the vocalist of the Rockin’ Ramrods, and the production seems to have more depth here than on that band’s 1966 original:

  2. One of the weaker songs off the album, which is why I’m surprised it’s a single and the one that we’re reviewing. I would have definitely gone with “Round & Round” as a better focal point for an Ariel Pink discussion. Would have given this a 7, probably, but it works really well on Before Today where it comes right after the weird kraut-lounge-jazz opener and right before another weird AM tune before really taking off with the serial killer synth-jam “Fright Night” and then it’s BLASTOFF with “Round & Round.” The album’s pacing is a big part of each track’s charm, which makes me think that reviewing almost any song off the album will yield an either tepid or downright hostile response.

  3. I think he’s an OK singer — certainly he’s not as unlistenable as the guy from the Hoosiers — but I still can’t hear a line of his without all this implied ATTITUDE, WHAT. Some might call it laid-back; I just want to slap him silly. Maybe I am imagining it?

  4. His voice is not great, but he knows how to let the limitations of his voice work for him. A lot of it is in the way he records it and how it matches with the rest of the instruments and their treatments. If you’re looking for a big, showy voice then this is not the guy. His voice works as texture and instrumental harmony than as a displayed instrument in itself.

  5. more than, etc.

  6. It isn’t even that. Technically speaking, he’s an alright vocalist if a bit flat. God knows I’m a fan of worse technical singers. But the real issue, to me, is that he sounds like he couldn’t give a shit how his singing comes off. And if he doesn’t give a shit, why should I?

  7. I said somewhere else today:

    I can hear what you do: the late seventies studio-rock influence, especially on “Menopause Man” and “Reminiscences.” But surely he’s got some dough — he can afford an engineer, right? The whole point of studio-rock is high fidelity.

  8. He’s definitely not the most offensive indie rock singer out there – probably at the more acceptable end of the scale – but really, Katherine is right. He sounds bored. It’s like he hit on a great idea in that sunny riff and then built nothing on it.

  9. I like the way his voice sounds tossed-off as he constantly changes his approach. As I said before, this may be the most straightforward song on the album, and it is a cover, so it’s not very indicative of what Pink does.