ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI 8
Rhystop R005 (2003) ltd 1000
Paw Tracks PAW05 CD/2LP (2005)
01. Trepanated Earth (10:53)
-trepan earth overture
-heavens hotter than hell
02. Immune to Emotion (2:39)
03. Jules Lost His Jewels (3:50)
04. Artifact (4:48)
05. Bloody! (Bagonia's) (1:32)
06. Credit (3:25)
07. Life In L.A. (6:45)
08. The Drummer (4:54)
09. Cable Access Follies (2:13)
10. Creepshow (5:22)
11. One On One (3:08)
12. Oblivious Peninsula (4:20)
13. Somewhere in Europe/ Hotpink! (4:29)
14. Thespian City (3:08)
15. Crybaby (3:25)
16. Foilly Foibles/ GOLD (8:09)
17. Jagged Carnival Tours (3:11)
All songs written, played and recorded by
Ariel Pink, except 11 (Pink/Hey)
Clarinet on 6 by J. Eliassen
Produced by A. Pink on 8 track cassette
September 02 - February 03
Transferred to disc from original stereo mixes
by Ian Marshall
Special Thanks to: Alisa, Tim Koh, Family, Friends, Contributers, Rhystop, BBP, DemoBoot, Shady Lane Records, Paw-Tracks, RSmoore,
Cover and Sleeve Design by Michael Zanna
On Worn Copy, Ariel Pink brews a disorienting amphetamine-spike acid-laced pop cocktail, and transports the listener to an impressionistic, potential past, where broadcasts from every era seemlessly collide together in an FM vaccum, filtering and blending all of R&R's most secret (but essential) transgressions, leaving us with one very tipsy, mega-bold, organic Jamba Juice for the ears. An authentic universe, at times beautiful, frightning, absurd, wayward and confounding, but always addictive.
P R E S S :
I'm not sure whether Ariel Pink is a genius, as some contend, or simply a very quirky do-it-yourselfer, as others might argue. What I do know is that he understands exactly what makes his favorite songs great, and extracts the essence of that music to make it his own. This is all the more evident in his newest disc, Worn Copy, his second for the Animal Collective's Paw Tracks label. One can make the case that with a proper studio and equipment, he could really kill. This is probably true, but the fact remains that it doesn't really matter. His songs are good enough (and idiosyncratic enough) to shine through the way they are, working together with, even taking advantage of, the ultra-low-fi production. Worn Copy is a testament to that.
More than in his previous release, The Doldrums (although he does have orders of magnitude more recordings out there on CD-R than are released under the Paw Tracks umbrella), this collection also shows just how wide Ariel Pink's musical scope is. A few examples: the epic psych-prog of 10-minute 3-part opener "Trepanated Earth"; the freakish rock 'n' roll of "Jules Lost His Jewels"; the horror funk of "Creepshow"; the summoning of early Roxy Music on "Somewhere in Europe/Hotpink!"; the Hall-and-Oates-ian 80's soft-rock chorus of "The Drummer"; the soft white soul of "Crybaby" (which fulfills the promise of "Among Dreams" from the Doldrums). There are eleven more examples on this record, most harbouring melodies that are catchy as all hell. And while the diversity makes the record feel like more of a song collection than an album, this is not to say that it doesn't remain cohesive. After a few listens, the abrupt jump from style to style between songs is simply what you come to expect of, and enjoy from, Ariel Pink.
Once you've internalized, and have no doubt begun to endlessly hum and whistle these melodies, you start to notice the lyrics, and how varied they are: the aforementioned "Jules", a song about a chronic ejaculator, and "Crybaby", about... well, an actual baby, that he can't get to stop crying. Or "Life in L.A.", a remarkably affecting song about the feeling of utter loneliness and alienation in day-to-day Los Angeles, complete with sad clarinet arrangements as accompaniment.
If you liked The Doldrums, you will definitely want to go out and grab Worn Copy as well. Genius or not, Ariel Pink tickles my brain's pleasure center, and given the chance, he'll do the same to you.
Worn Copy deserves a place in a museum, stored in a vitrine and observed with hushed regard. It's indisputably a pure burst of unmatched, solitary creativity. The only question left is which one: the Folk Art Museum or the Museum of Television and Radio.
On the side of the short-wave buffs, Worn Copy is a premier example of the influence radio has had on American culture. The 75 minutes of song pastiche bear the influence of popular rock, dance, and soul from the latter half of the twentieth century, but not the clear sound of new vinyl on a hi-fi, or the blasting electricity of a live performance. This is an album written by someone whose primary source of music must have been a radio. The sounds phase in and out, their volumes changing as if the signal has briefly disappeared. The tones are fuzzy and muted, with the same lack of highs and lows that brought AM radio to its knees at the arrival of the sharper FM. Songs switch styles as abruptly as a listless hand surfing the stations.
The songwriter and musician, Ariel Pink, who created and recorded Worn Copy almost entirely on his own, mixes psychedelic '60s rock, '70s Californian jazz-funk, and '80s pop of Duran Duran and the Cars. These 8-track recordings can be both deceptively accomplished and then suddenly drop all pretense of technique, such as in the reverb-heavy "One on One", which feels like a meeting of the minds between the Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane.
Like most of us, Pink seems to have received the majority of his early exposure to popular music through radio, whether the faint sounds of college stations or the afternoon drive-time rock station. An impressive aspect of this influence is the incorporation into his songs of an essential element of commercial radio: the commercials. The track "Credit" turns a satirical commercial jingle into the song's core melodic hook, as inane and insanely unforgettable as any real one. "Cable Access Follies", a trashcan funk track with layered, bass vocals, emotionally glorifies the joys of cable TV.
His record might be a useful cultural artifact for the Smithsonian, but as an artist he clearly seems more comfortable in the realm of outsider artists rather than the gallery establishment. Pink seems almost begging to be labeled a "freak." The publicity photo that came with the CD showed Pink shirtless and strung out, his contorted face covered in what I have to assume is only stage blood. His combination of self- and mass-produced elements to create an original yet uncomfortably familiar final work makes for an easy fit with the outsider art of such visual artists as Henry Darger and Eugene Von Bruenchenheim. Like these solitary artists, Pink created hundreds of songs by himself. The lengthy Worn Copy is nothing compared to the potential magnum opus he might have arranged.
But Pink is not a freak. Outsider status is just like any other artistic authenticity debate -- cool, punk, and now freak are intangible labels that can really only be conferred posthumously. Pink is very much alive, and no longer a misunderstood loner. For one, he's enjoying some moderate recognition while still alive, something most outsider artists almost by definition never do. Darger and Bruenchenheim might never have been moved to create such vast collections of bizarre artwork if they had been given attention in their own time (Darger's drawings might easily have got him arrested, even). Like Devendra Banhart, another young singer crowned with the dubious appellation of "freak," a continuing, successful career as a musician almost instantly tarnishes the crown.
Worn Copy is a reissue of an older record, its material recorded in 2002 and 2003. His first record for Paw Tracks, The Doldrums, appeared last year but was recorded between 1999 and 2000. What can come next? The music of 1997 to 1998, or will Pink be able to return to his hermitage in California and, impervious to his recent shades of success and attention, create another epic ramble as compelling and singular as Worn Copy? I'm not sure what effect it might have on the man's sanity, but for the listener's sake I can't help but wish that he'd been left undiscovered for a few more years, able only to tune in to his own inner bandwidth for comfort.
— 20 April 2005
If last year's reissue of The Doldrums said anything about Ariel Pink, it was that he's the most dedicated kind of sensualist: a poor, messy one. Emerging from a pile of half-trashed copies of Us and myriad plastic cups warped by dishwashers and stained with purple lipstick, he offered AM pop visions of urban erosion; exhaust-choked and piss-drowned balladry, succumbing to hiss and withering fidelity. There was something touching and hopelessly terrestrial about the built-in decay of his music, when it worked. People seemed to have some ethical qualms; some recoiled at the idea that it was faux-idiot savant vaudeville, that Ariel was just some well-adjusted kid from suburban L.A. making wacky, entitled bullshit. Authenticity wars aside, the newly reissued Worn Copy (recorded after The Doldrums, but still a couple years old) plays to the aggressively sillier and kitschier aspects of his music, which aren't terrible, but aren't half as compelling as the mysterious solemnities he's capable of.
Granted, Worn Copy is a lot more accessible than The Doldrums; the latter went down like tattered home movies and Robitussin in a dimly lit rec room, the former is like getting hosed with Gatorade and Mardi Gras beads over a fast-panning sequence of mountain climbing at a pep rally in the middle school gymnasium. It's likely that a lot of people will find the thumping rollerblade rock of "Jules Lost His Jewels" or the ghetto-blasted disco tedium of "Credit" instantly more enjoyable than his moodier, more fractured work, which is absolutely fine. It definitely warrants a high-five or two for pop's sake, but there's something raw and near-beautiful about songs like "Foilly Foibles Gold," an eight-minute dream that sails through New Order and cracks its skull on a cheerleader breakdown only to bleed syrupy, limp-wristed jazz-pop—it provokes the imagination in shadowed, inconclusive, and exciting ways.
It seems misguided to talk about Ariel Pink as a songwriter, though his blueprints are nothing if not pop songs, and some really decent ones at that. It's atmosphere over narrative, it's a sum of fledgling blue-eyed soul/zombie-Zappa nuggets that seep through the sidewalk cracks, get trampled, recycled, and repackaged as a rotting diorama of city life, a blasé celebration of ad-saturated monotony. At times, the mood is thrilling, rare, and utterly bewitching, which make the jagged edges of booger-flicking juvenilia that pop up on Worn Copy all the more distracting. If nothing else, it's another piece in Ariel's garbled blackbox picture; two reissues have come out on Paw Tracks in the past six months, and he's got at least four other CD-Rs strewn around his room waiting to see light other than the television's test pattern (Lover Boy, House Arrest, Scared Famous and FF>>), a fairly daunting pile of music from one of the more unusual and divisive projects of the past couple of years.
Reviewed by: Mike Powell on: 2005-04-20
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
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's official debut, The Doldrums, won praise for having the Animal Collective's graces and for being an uncanny perversion of the Me Decade pop-radio that worshipped the golden calves of Dylan, McCartney, Carpenter, and Orlando. Pink's second album, Worn Copy, furthers his cult-baiting mystique as a bedroom hermit from suburban L.A. who conjures up ghosts by burning a roll of avocado-green shag carpet un-vacuumed for 30 years.
To his credit, Pink has sharpened his songwriting and studio touches-- he has several 1970s AOR-pop Muzak formulas nailed, making his freakitude compelling and digestible. That's a quality Ween and Redd Kross sometimes failed to capture-- quotation marks were clearly and fashionably marked on their odes to that decade's trash culture. But the problem remains that if the fashionably shoddy production values are removed from the sound, Pink's music would melt into the air.
Still, Worn Copy's first half is a gas. Opener "Trepanated Earth" begins with a hazy, synth and flanged guitar. Pink then mumbles something romantic before one of his split personalities interrupts, "The human race is a pile of dogshit!" and "Mankind is a Nazi!" After a few false starts and jumbled rickets, he then becomes a charming easy-listening opening act for the Wings 75 tour. "Immune to Emotion" is nasally congested "I'm OK, You're OK" pop that could serve as country club luncheon entertainment. "Jules Lost His Jewels" is a 33rpm power-pop raveup cranked or "Alvin-ized" (as composer John Oswald might put it) to 45 with bloodlines that can be traced to the Mothers of Invention's "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance".
Pink's most poignant moments come when his low-fi smoke screen dissipates. "Credit" is a clever, disco-spiced lament that smokes its second pack of cigarettes over credit card policies and bills-- the mundane subject matter made so bizarre yet sensible for the inflation-addled 70s. "Life in L.A." is a fine downer-rock number with a languid mood that mimics the exhaustion of watching the sunset over a beach while you're trapped in a traffic jam on a freeway bridge.
The rest of Worn Copy indulges in too many half-realized noise experiments and ideas. "Bloody! (Bagonia's)" is Pink amusing himself with Tourette's syndrome, while the quasi-rap number "Cable Access Follies" earns a silver star for imitating Beck at his most confusing.
By the way, did you know that this year marks the 10th anniversary of Mike Watt's sleeper-hit "Against the 70s"? It's the tune where the legendary postpunk bassist has Eddie "Crazy Horse disciple" Vedder sing, "The kids of today must defend themselves against the 70's!" The key lyric goes: "It's not reality/ It's someone else's sentimentality."
-Cameron Macdonald, May 3, 2005
If Ariel Pink cared what people thought of him -- which he clearly doesn't -- he wouldn't have opened "Worn Copy" with the 11-minute "Trepanated Earth," a low-fi suite that meanders through prog-rock swoops, Whoish flourishes and what-the-heck sample collage. The L.A.-based Pink (whose actual surname is Rosenberg) writes tunes that are as catchy and offhand as any by Guided by Voices, but he doesn't emulate that band's brevity. This album runs almost 78 minutes and includes more songs that are too long than ones that are too short. For the patient, however, "Worn Copy" has its rewards. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti is a one-man band whose idiosyncrasies include smeary home-studio sound and percussion that is produced entirely by Pink's mouth. Yet these 17 songs also boast solid melodies and adept guitar, bass and keyboard performances. Such songs as "Immune to Emotion" and "Jules Lost His Jewels" meld rock, soul, funk and that sweet California sound known as "sunshine pop." Pink cites '70s home-taping pioneer R. Stevie Moore as an inspiration, but there's a bit of Brian Wilson in such small-budget, big-sweep numbers as "Oblivious Peninsula."
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Monday at the Black Cat. ? To hear a free Sound Bite from Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffitti, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8102.
Over the past few years, plenty of bands have sought to copy the rickety psychedelia of the Flaming Lips and the eclectic oddness of Beck. Unfortunately, most have replaced invention with bombast, too prosaic to create something truly eccentric. Ariel Pink, thankfully, is the exception. The music this Los Angelean makes at home on a battered four-track recorder goes way beyond outré pop, into a soundworld of primitive synthesizers, nagging jingles and, it seems, nightmares.
He is a gifted, catchy writer. Jules Lost His Jewels is a fantastically invigorating burst of garage soul, for instance. But it is the disorienting lo-fi effects that dominate Worn Copy.
You'll question Pink's mental state, and worry about your own as you play this perversely euphoric record again and again. Then its charm becomes clear: though hardly perfect, Worn Copy still achieves an alchemical mix of melody, imagination and mystery that shows pop can still surprise and unnerve.
4 out of 5 stars
Ariel Rosenberg is sitting on the floor of his tiny, one-bedroom LA apartment. It's late-afternoon on a Sunday, and the sun is coming through the plastic blinds in lazy, filtering rays with dust motes floating in the diffused light. The four-track is plugged in on the floor in front of him. (He's sitting cross-legged, barefoot in jeans with a sleeveless gray shirt that reads 'Fuck the Whales, Save Yourself') Into the four-track, he's plugged a set of Walkman headphones jury-rigged as a mic, and he is singing his goddamn heart out. But he can't sing. At all. He's warbling, howling like a beagle, Becking out fake R&B falsettos, glubbing off-key and too slow, strumming a beat-up child-size guitar while dustbunnies and RapSnacks wrappers drift slow and lazy across the hardwoods, and the neighbors below him BANG their broom into the ceiling, shouting, 'Callate, pinche guero!' BANG! 'Tu music es tan horrible!' BANG! BANG! BANG! 'Callate! No mas!' They've had it up to here because he's been doing it every day since they moved in. Six fucking months now. Noise. Pure retardo noise.
Only thing is, they don't see what happens next. Ariel goes into mad alchemist mode. Atop his non-vocals and structureless folkie guitar, he lays real, honest-to-god beatboxing. The kind The Fat Boys made famous. Ariel bum buh buh huhing steady bass drops, drum fills, and breakdowns. Then he plays his Casio (which is more Wesley Willis pre-play than anything) beatboxes some house beats, mixes the first tape down, ping pongs it, then lays down electric guitar, some samples from his TV, and a guitar solo that comes out of nowhere, swooping down into the hazy junkyard sea like an eagle, zanging savage and wiry like the Contrane/raga-inspired lead to The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High'... whaaaaa wha wha wha whawhawhawhawhawhawhawhaawha!
And he's got a song. Done. In the can. Seventeen more and it's an album. Worn Copy is Ariel's latest for the Animal Collective's Paw-Tracks label. It's disjointed, wandering, layered, unschooled, draped in hiss and fuzz and tape-warble like some ancient elementary school film strip soundtrack, woorrr-rrearrinmg out in the middle, volume rising and dropping like open ocean swells, corroded and degraded by shitty mics and lo-fi-as-religion aesthetic.
Worn Copy has the feel of a tape recorded off a tape recorded off a tape that somewhere, years before, had been the B-52s' first record or maybe a Jane Fonda workout tape or maybe it was dubbed off an 8mm film of somebody's parents having sex in 1977. But it doesn't matter. Because like a game of Telephone, it's lost its original meaning and turned into something all its own. It's morphed into a new species, barely connected to its ancestors, and us scientists are losing our shit trying to figure it out. Which is a good sign. Confusion is always the first reaction to something completely new. And that's just what Ariel's done, weirded and lo-fi'd himself into creating a fresh sound, a new beast/beat, some kind of unnatural, free jazz beatbox noise folk.
But here's where it gets really weird: unlike his last bit of spacecadet folk, The Doldrums, this one's catchy. It's fucking crazy catchy. Songs like track six, 'Credit,' have the stickiness of the best Britney Spears song ever, choruses that feel familiar, riffs—even if you can't tell what instrument's playing them—that have the perfect simplicity of a Chuck Berry guitar intro, the ronky lead to 'Satisfaction' or the hook to that fucktardedly fun club hit that took Ibiza by storm last summer. Which is an odd dichotomy: a singer that sounds like he wants to smoke 13,173 bongs with his 13,173 hallucinated mouths, and start drum circles with Indians, druids, and hippies, playing riffs that sound stolen from Kylie Minogue singles.
But is the world ready for Weird Ariel Yankovic and his lysergic Popsicle? I don't think so. First, who outside of hip circles will be able to explain that freakin' band name? People in the mainstream are just now wrapping their heads around indie/punk-bred irony, and now they've gotta deal with a new scene that celebrates ugly art and being silly and lame as an aesthetic? No fuckin' way. Then there's the lyrics. Hey Uncle Pete, what are you gonna think when your 11-year-old daughter Chloe comes home singing the latest Star 100.7 megahit, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's 'Artifact,' its line 'the terrorists spread the plague through computer screens and we die' stapled somewhere to the back of her subconscious... what'll happen then? I'll tell you what, Ariel Rosenburg will be hunted down by Homeland Security, wrapped head-to-toe in red, white and blue duct-tape, given a three-minute 'trial', then drawn and quartered. Do you know what happens when you draw and quarter someone? (Google it.) Indeed, the world needs Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti like it needs another death-happy sex virus. Viva la revolución!
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