Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti Live @ Hailey's in Denton (W/Puro Instinct and Magic Kids, both missed!)
I knew back when I first heard Worn Copy (Paw Tracks) that Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti just might catch on big some day. This was like five years before Pitchfork admonished him new pop savior and marketing terms like "chill-wave" and "glo-fi" were invented to help blow up the memetic bubble.
Flash forward a couple years -- I see an Ariel Pink concert at Hailey's where maybe 40 people turn out. It's not bad. Flash forward to three nights ago -- I see an Ariel Pink concert at the same place, and it's packed to the rafters with indie kids, arty acid rockers, and bored booty-shakers alike. It also is not bad.
I always wondered what would happen if Pink ever got a budget and some classy session people to work on an album, and the well received Before Today (4AD) offers a glimpse into the results. It's a decent enough record -- ever-approachable as one pal put it -- but perhaps more importantly it's an Ariel Pink record. Sure, it's got the 4AD logo on the back, and Pink isn't playing every instrument (including beatbox) himself, but that same oddball tinny guitar sound and tinker-toy disco beat pervades, all fleshed out with truly glorious post Beach Boys harmonic eruptions. Much of the nihilism of the earlier records is gone, fodder for the cutting room floor in the wake of bigger market demands, no doubt. But that's not really a problem given who's on board this time for collaboration/production duties -- including Dallas's own Yells at Eels led by the great Dennis Gonzalez (who also plays with Added Pizzazz, a kind of Ariel Pink/Y@E jazz thing spin-off), and Matt Castille of Ft. Worth's space rock titans Vas Deferens Organization (he's also a contributor to the revered Mutant Sounds download blog) handling production duties. That's right, kids! One of Mutant Sounds' very own is subliminally programming the minds of suburbanite pot smokers via the mysterious properties of pop music. Not much has really changed, has it?
It could be argued that as flash in the pan as Ariel Pink and his band of merry freaks seem to be, this is all actually long in the making, and the pedigree that went into the recording of the songs on Before Today is as varied and outside the mainstream as any you will find, which makes its (seemingly) surprise success all the more satisfying. Whether Ariel really is a pop savant or just an astute observer of weird-rock-with-hooks through the ages (rendering him all too willing to throw Prince, Giorgio Moroder, Krautrock, Beach Boys and Cheap Trick into a blender and click puree), the infectious yet alien charm of his songs speaks for itself. It still works and with less filler this time, but in true Pink form, the end results remain as polarizing as ever.
What I liked about the gig:
- Seeing the great Dennis Gonzalez share the stage with the band for an extended cool drone during set opener, "Hot Body Rub."
- Noting how the band repeatedly recreated the cheap studio sound of songs like "Hardcore Pops Are Fun" with ease in the live setting.
- Seeing so many cool friends come out on a hot as Hades Summer night -- the hugs (and the drugs - thank you, Benadryl!)
- Ariel signing my friend Greg's CD "To Miette" to make up for his daughter's nonattendance. Miette actually saw Ariel Pink live when she was 7 or so. Miette is clearly a very cool rocker, but it was still a school night.
What I did not like about the gig:
- How goddamn hot it was.
- Amazingly long bar lines.
- The creepy, mumbling girl who sat across from me with her legs apart.
- All the dorky party boys who kept jumping on stage, crowding the band and diving into the crowd. Don't get me wrong, I like kicking strangers in the face while being magically transported on the arms of dozens of people I don't know as much as the next guy, but this wasn't really that kind of show, was it? It's a freakin' dance party. Freakin' dance!
- Getting lost on the way home as my friend was hunched over and passed out, unable to give directions.
- Shouting my friend's name repeatedly while driving aimlessly through the Texas night. Actually enjoyed this too.
- How goddamn hot it was.