Ariel Pink’s new release, Before Today, is widely seen as his commercial breakthrough. It also contains a droning song called “Menopause Man” in which Pink bellows, “Rape me, castrate me, make me gay!” So, let’s just say that whatever commercial success Pink enjoys with Before Today is probably going to be limited. In fact, “Menopause Man” is relatively straightforward. The rest of the album sounds more like “Private Eyes”-era Hall & Oates having a drug-fueled nervous breakdown.
Born Ariel Rosenberg, Pink has been creating strange, lo-fi home-recorded music in Los Angeles since the ’90s, the heyday of that kind of thing. But he went virtually unknown until 2004, when Animal Collective released his album The Doldrums on their Paw Tracks label. That album started a lively debate among critics and listeners who were unsure if they were hearing the work of an eccentric genius or an art-school graduate who had convinced pretentious indie fans that his crappy music was legitimate outsider art created by a mentally ill person. It also launched a long series of reissues of Pink’s earlier home recordings, which only made the debate harder to resolve. And then, in June, Before Today came out on 4AD Records — a label better known for the lush sound of the Cocteau Twins and, more recently, Bon Iver and St. Vincent. Pink has risen to this standard, to some extent. For the first time, he has a real backup band — and they’re pretty good.
So, score one for the “faker” camp — Pink can sound (sort of) like a pro when he wants to. But he’s still the kind of guy who sings “Menopause Man.” The debate rages on.
- Friday, August 6, 2010, 8:30 p.m.
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