Try as you might, there’s no denying the fact that Ariel Pink and his musical output are both pretty odd. For the most part, his unusual and unorthodox demeanour works in a very charming way, but sometimes he does push the bizarre a little too far. If you’re somebody who’s taken Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s (@menopausemen) past material as more irksome than quirky cool, then your opinions aren’t going to change with this. Pink’s ninth studio album, Mature Themes, seems somewhat of an ironic title when you hear tracks like “Kinski Assassin”, which talks about Sigmund Freund, suicidal dumplings and testicle bombs or the bewildering “Schnitzel Boogie”, which basically consists of Pink telling the listener that he’s eating schnitzel, over and over again. I must admit, these moments really did test my patience and my threshold for the strange. In the grand scheme of things, though, they only act like speed bumps slowing the album down significantly.
Mature Themes may take a couple of songs to get going and unwind a little around the middle, but when it does find itself, it more than rewards the listener with some really imaginative and engaging songs. Pink has an incredible knack for melody, and he displays it brilliantly in tracks like “Only In My Dreams” and “Mature Themes”. Not to mention, his distinct brand of 70′s inspired avant garde and psychedelic pop is as sharp as ever.
What really caught my attention, though, were the moments where the album peels off into new waters. The stiffer, starched and considerably more sullen vocal delivery that Pink gives throughout not only works as a great counteraction to his higher pitched, melodic tones, but also introduces a somewhat dark new wave/post punk aesthetic into the fold. The dreamy and ethereal “Nostradamus and Me” see’s the group expand their kaleidoscopic sound into the realm of ambience and lo-fi experimentation, a style which is a perfect fit for the tone of the album and the style of Ariel Pink. This floating, free forming seven minutes of heavenly sound is not only a pure joy to listen to, it also opens up more doors for the group moving forward. The same can be said for the album closer “Baby”, which pulls off a vintage RnB sound to near perfection.
For the most part, Mature Themes is a really enjoyable listen with plenty going on in both the fore and background. Unfortunately, though, the few times the album stops and starts not only interferes with it’s consistency but also it’s quality. Still, if you can get over a couple of humps, there is plenty of good to be found, reflected through a series of weird yet ultimately wonderful prisms of sound.