'Dedicated To Bobby Jameson' finds Ariel Pink in typically unabashed and frivolously experimental form; it's a record that suffers from too many under-explored threads of ideas but there's still much of worth to find here
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Over the past twenty years, Ariel Pink has produced one of the most eclectic and egregiously bizarre discographies modern alternative music has to offer. Those familiar with even a small portion of his rather unwieldy catalogue will well know his genre-hopping glee and his often wilfully obstreperous tendency to create exactly what he wants when he wants, with little thought for the coherency of the final product. Such tendencies have resulted in a niche but ardent fanbase, and a frequently impenetrable body of work that frustrates and delights in equal measure. With this in mind, ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ is exactly what you’d expect from a new Ariel Pink record. It is dizzyingly eclectic, unerringly irreverent and – in typical form – rather uneven. It’s long been a trait of his work ethic that few Ariel Pink records are free of any mis-steps, and his latest offering is no different.
By and large, however, ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ is a compelling record that revels in its own eccentricities – of which there are too many to count – and finds its creator swapping personas with an unmistakable enthusiasm and fluidity. Pink jumps between roles as everything from an LSD-dropping psych rocker (as on the swirling, ‘Light My Fire’-indebted title track) to rollicking country-reprobate (as per closing track ‘Ode To The Goat’) – all this on a record that loves nothing more than squashing as many seemingly unrelated genres as possible together and forcing them to work. It’s not a subtle record and, at times, it feels as though the album’s eclecticism is there simply for the sake of it, not because it’s really needed. Some of the album’s more disparate moments are so incongruous together that Pink’s attempts to make them work within the context of the same album feel somewhat akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole.
There can be, after all, too much of a good thing. Variety has long been a strongpoint for Pink and a definite positive on many of his albums – ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ certainly isn’t the first time he has taken things a little too far with the array of styles on show; but that doesn’t stop the album simply being too much at times. Taken out of the context of the album, none of the songs on ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ are weak; some certainly stand out but it doesn’t feel as though Pink is treading water on any of the album’s 14 songs. The problem instead arises from the fact that throughout the record he chucks everything-but-the-kitchen-sink at so many of the songs here that it becomes a case of diminishing returns; the tracks simply start to lose their impact on the latter half of the record.
On the rare occasions where Pink strips away some of the sheer frivolity of the album and allows his songwriting to breathe, it is something of a treat. The psych-pop melancholia of ‘Another Weekend’ is perhaps not sparse per se but it certainly sees Pink take a step back and take on a more serious tone which works very well indeed. It’s not that the album’s more chaotically idiosyncratic moments disappoint – every Ariel Pink-ism that fans have come to expect is present and correct here – but rather that the album feels less like a cohesive near 50 minute journey and more like a collection of thematically incongruous songs thrown-together into a seemingly randomized track-listing.
Is that a bad thing though? Well, there’s certainly no denying that it robs the album of some potential impact but, then again, Pink has made a career perverting expectations, confounding naysayers and generally fucking with preconceptions at every available juncture. It makes an odd kind of sense then, that ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ makes no sense at all. It’s a madhatters-teaparty of an album, one where logic is given a firm middle finger and common sense is booted out of the door. With that realisation comes a certain freedom and it is once that conclusion has been drawn that the album really opens up.
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Of course, long term fans will likely have realised this long ago – there’s an ever-present oddness throughout Pink’s discography and those always enamoured with his avant-antics won’t find an album of dissonant ideas and chaotic overflow so much as a continuation of a career-long ethos. New comers may struggle on initial listens but there’s no easy way in to Pink’s discography and ‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ is far from his most challenging record.
‘Dedicated To Bobby Jameson’ is a curious album then. By its nature, it’s a record that loves nothing more than to frustrate and amuse in equal measure; much like the man who made the album. This is not music that takes itself seriously and although it is fair to call the album flawed (no amount of explaining away justifies the album’s iffy pacing and overload of under-explored ideas) there is much to be taken from this bright, buzzing maze of a record.
The album is out on the 15th September and the full track-listing is as follows…
1. Time to Meet Your God 2. Feels Like Heaven 3. Death Patrol 4. Santa’s in The Closet 5. Dedicated to Bobby Jameson 6. Time to Live 7. Another Weekend 8. I Wanna Be Young 9. Bubblegum Dreams 10. Dreamdate Narcissist 11. Kitchen Witch 12. Do Yourself a Favor 13. Acting (feat. Dam-Funk)