Ariel Pink

pom pom

“I make people feel uneasy,” Ariel Pink told a Spin reporter back in 2012. At the time, the L.A. avant-rock auteur was still a few months shy of the release of Mature Themes, his eighth and (now) most commercially successful album to date. If Pink’s true talent lies in his ability to unnerve, he knows how to wield it. This week, Pink follows up Mature Themes with pom pom, a funky, dark, catchy catch-all that stretches 17 songs long (two discs if you go vinyl) and moves all over the retrotastic map. There are moments of dark-wave à la Bahaus’s Peter Murphy (“Not Enough Violence”), as well as some bombastic Rick James trance-channeling (“Black Ballerina,” “Sexual Athletics”). At one point, we even get a peek inside Pink as jingle writer (“Jell-O”). But rattling off reference points hardly scratches the surface of pom pom’s bizarre, everything-effacing appeal. Like those that came before it, Pink’s latest zips between worlds faster than a song idea can reach completion, with spoken word, interludes, and found sounds often jockeying for control of the careening lyrical ride. It’s a twisted, sometimes poignant, and oddly appealing collection, and it will make you feel every type of strange, uncomfortable, awkward, life-affirming emotion under the sun.

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