Ariel Pink is the kind of artist that refuses even the most basic of categorization. His work veers between hazy synth-pop, 70s R&B and 60’s jangle rock united only by Pink’s bizarre composition style and his twisted, occasionally perverted wordplay. This made him an interesting curiosity in his early days, when he recorded by himself on an analog tape recorder. With 2010’s Before Today, we got a look at a potentially new Ariel Pink: streamlined, professional, and catchy as hell. However, Mature Themes, the latest from the underground hero of tape hiss, retains the clean production of its predecessor while bringing Pink back to his demented comfort zone.
Even at his most pop-friendly (the Byrds-like single “Only In My Dreams”), Pink makes everything off-kilter, shifting time signatures and using unconventional song structures so that the listener never gets too comfortable. Elsewhere, Pink throws around deliberately obtuse lines, dropping “testicle bombs” on opener “Kinski Assassin” and outing himself as a “nympho in the discotheque” on “Symphony of the Nymph.” Despite his deliberate weirdness, Ariel Pink never ceases to be engaging, and his gift for a hook certainly hasn’t abandoned him. Songs like “Pink Slime” and “Farewell American Primitive” overcome relatively obtuse lyrical subjects with melodies that implant themselves in your brain and have you humming all day. While many things about Mature Themes seem decidedly immature, the record still displays Ariel Pink’s mad genius for all of us to hear and love. Here’s hoping he never decides to write a normal song.