It’s always been hard trying to pigeonhole Ariel Pink; a walking master of irony, his low-slung, misogynistic, weirdo pop has drawn complaints and accolades all over. There’s a thick line of division between the people who think he’s a bona fide genius and the people who think he’s an overrated bellend.
His set at the Electric Ballroom lays testament to this. The guy is a madcap, and his music can easily flit from heavy, dark guitar rock to eerily whimsical fairground music without warning. Most of tonight’s performance is indebted to his latest release pom pom, with a few glimmers of Haunted Graffiti songs as Pink stands in the middle of the stage, kitted out in pink jeans, a butterfly shirt and most unforgivably, six inch bejewelled platforms. He’s only overshadowed by his drummer Don Bolles, who rocks a bikini top and cowboy hat. Each of the musicians with Pink don’t even seem part of the parade; they’re all fixated in their own little world and half the time, looking as if they haven’t got a clue how they ended up there. “Black Ballerina” was a particular highlight; the interaction onstage was pretty hilarious, and added an extra level of nonsense when it came to the spoken word skit.
Ariel Pink is a clever guy; a master of juxtaposition. His oddball lo-fi vein of pop normally deal with much more sordid subject matters, especially tracks like “Jell-O”, a track written about the triviality of suburban continuation, whilst the song’s irony is steeped in a playground refrain of following the crowd. His ability to alter genres to interact with his own engaging style has left him with a gift most musicians rarely capture in their entire career.
So, that’s why it’s a crying shame that live, his music just doesn’t translate as well. It’s charmless, and struggles to fill even the capacity of the Electric Ballroom with his reverb coated voice flimsily trying to reach the stratosphere when it barely passes the first five rows of the crowd. The sound system doesn’t complement Pink’s goofiness and it’s all lost very quickly. Whilst on record, Pink’s music is sharp, witty and dealt with a precision that underlies the madness, live it turns into an amorphous blur.
Quite frankly, it’s all over the place, and not in a good way either. The set is suffering from a major case of attention deficit disorder, which certainly ensures the pace isn’t dropped, but leaves you struggling to enjoy any of the morsels that Pink puts on offer to play for his audience. The crowd are a mixed bag themselves: some wander around the venue, not even paying attention to the man they paid to see, whereas others stand bobbing silently. It’s only at the encore when things start to pick up that we are left the best side of Ariel Pink in the shape of his 60s pop-indebted hits, “Put Your Number In My Phone” and “Dayzed Inn Daydreams” amping up the quality of him and his band in an instant.
Most notably, Pink seems altogether a pretty endearing guy. Praising the “legendary” venue he is playing, it’s a shock to see a fella surrounded by so much façade come across as humble. Pink clearly left the excesses at the door tonight and whilst it didn’t make for a mind-blowing live show, it also didn’t degrade his musicianship either.
Written by Harley Cassidy