When two of the lines in the very first song of an album are "Crib notes pacifistic polymonogamasturbator's a whore (that's right!)" and "Suicide dumplings dropping testicle bombs (bombs, bombs)" you should probably know right away that any conventional analysis of the album will be an exercise in futility. After 2010's breakthrough Before Today, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti exploded onto the indie rock scene with the anthemic "Round and Round." Although it still featured Pink's (nee Ariel Rosenberg) ability to marry 60s acid rock with 80s synth pop which was highly visible on past releases like House Arrest or The Doldrums, it seemed like nearly every track on Before Today stuck -- even if the album suffered from a severe lack of focus. Pink's newest record, Mature Themes, finds the crew fully embracing the avant-garde side of the Haunted Graffiti equation. And while Pink's musicianship has never been better or more cohesive, his lyricism is total word salad nonsense that sees Pink abandoning hooks to simply make the record as transgressive as humanly possible.
The opening track, "Kinski Assassins," sets the tone for the frustrating dichotomies at the core of the record. If the jangly pop of the Yardbirds and the Ray Manzarek fueled organs of the Doors had a baby, you'd get an idea of what it sounds like, which is to say, phenomenal. Pink's gift is to make songs that you could easily fool your parents into thinking were lost B-sides from the 60s. Whether it's the title track, the standout single "Only in My Dreams" or others, Ariel Pink -- who has accumulated hundreds of cassettes of his recordings over the years -- proves that he is one of the most prolific and talented producers of music in terms of sheer volume this side of Guided by Voices' Robert Pollard. It's just a shame I can't generate the same enthusiasm -- or even a sense remotely resembling pleasure -- for his gibberish lyrics.
Although he does occasionally sling some of the cleverness that made past tracks like "Menopause Man" or "I Can't Hear My Eyes" so lyrically refreshing, most of the album is more in line with "Schnitzel Boogie," where he talks about -- wait for it -- eating schnitzel. Maybe it's a pun for his man-bits. That could be clever, but when he starts discussing an actual schnitzel order with specific directions on how to make it, that possibility kind of falls apart. The following track, "Symphony of the Nymph" has Pink screaming "She's a nympho" several times over. There's a lot of lyrical repetition on the album, and if Pink's goal was to show that even the most absurd and/or offensive series of words can be turned into a hook, he may have succeeded. Otherwise, the album is more dense than Finnegan's Wake.
Still, for Ariel Pink fans, you know to expect a little bit of crazy. You just might not know to expect this much crazy. "Only In My Dreams," "Is This The Best Spot," and "Driftwood" find Pink straddling the ideal line between his psych-rock and synth-pop impulses without drifting into "What the Hell Am I Listening To?!" territory. While "Before Today" was accessible enough to attract new fans, non-Pink converts need not apply. Unless you've just ingested a Hunter S. Thompson level of 'shrooms, this album will likely offend you on some deep, personal level you can't understand.