Love is on the way home
E. A Solinas | MD USA | 02/24/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ariel Pink is one of those artists that straddles the line between bizarre lo-fi and.... everything else. Funk, pop, electronica, whatever.
And that shines pretty brightly in "Scared Famous," a collection of recordings from the era before Pink was "discovered" by Animal Collective and became a cult figure. But fear not, there's plenty of his lo-fi psychedelic sound here, speckled with crazy sound effects and schizophrenic stylings.
It opens with a vaguely Spanish pop intro, completely catchy and full of Pink's tinny yowling. But "Gopacapulpo" evolves into something very different: a sort of lo-fi Beach Boys psychpop song, punctuated by Pink's twisted experimental pop moments -- it seems he can't restrain himself long enough to do something really catchy consistently.
And then he injects a funky electronic edge to "Howling At The Moon," as he informs us, "I'd say nothing, I'd just stand there/and I'd dream my song/a song of pain/it's called 'Howling at the Moon.'" The song bounces between stretchy electronica and funky beats, with Pink singing falsetto, "LOVE is on the way home!" over and over.
After that, it's just a crazy quilt of all sorts of different styles -- folksy arty techno, growling festival pop, blazing sputtering fairy rock, hallucinogenic electronic songs, sprightly little lo-fi guitar rockers, swooning hazy psychpop riddled with falsetto voices, and even occasionally a grimy little rock number with moments of countryness.
And the last three are good pieces of work -- "Jesus Christ Came To Me in a Dream" is a quirky, reverberating little rock number, while "The List (My Favorite song)" is a celebration of mellotron. It finishes with an appropriate outro: the surprisingly mellow "An Appeal From Heaven," a gentle meandering keyboard melody.
Ariel Pink is not for everyone -- those who like melodies that can't suddenly go off on tangents, clear instrumentals, or radio-friendliness will loathe his music. But those who like their music profoundly weird and/or echoing with classic psychpop (is that Syd Barrett? Is that a Beach Boys demo?) are probably going to find something to like about "Scared Famous."
Everything has the tinny, gritty sound of lo-fi production, which somehow isn't very surprising. Listen carefully for the instrumentation, though -- Pink infuses his songs with some wicked keyboard, piano, xylophone, electric guitar, blazing bass, and twisty, funky synth. And you can't depend on him to stick to each song's "sound" -- sometimes he decides to branch off and change in the middle of it.
And he loves to smother his songs in odd flourishes -- eruptions of synth, whistling, echo effects, et cetera. Admittedly, there are a couple songs that aren't quite up to snuff -- for example, "In a Tomb All your Own" is rather monotonous. But this is outweighed by songs so excellent that they really don't sound like early B-sides or demos.
Pink's voice matches his music as well, although he basically has two vocal modes: one is a slightly nasal indie-rocker sound, and one is a high-pitched falsetto. But his vocals are often half-buried in the bizarre musical twists, and to be honest, I have a lot of trouble hearing just what he's singing a lot of the time. Some are simplistic ("This is your chance now/answer meeeee/why can't I be meeeee?"), and some are very weird ("There is a girl/who says she's a squirrel...").
Despite the occasional dud song, "Scared Famous" is a magnificent look back to Ariel Pink's more obscure days -- a colourful, hallucinatory musical experience. Warning: not for those who just like radio contents."