ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI play Lee’s Palace on September 19. See listing. Rating: NNN
When powerful indie label 4AD signed long-running underground musician Ariel Pink, it seemed to have his bio pre-written: outsider icon plucked from obscurity and given the resources to transform his off-kilter, cheaply recorded song sketches into the hits they always had the potential to be.
Pink culled the track list of 2010's Before Today from seven previously lo-fi, limited-release albums and re-recorded them with a crack new band, Haunted Graffiti. It connected with a wider audience. This 4AD follow-up, Mature Themes, applies the same semi-professional method to a set of new songs, but anyone expecting it to be his, well, mature album will likely find it as frustrating as ever.
Pink obviously has a weakness for well-crafted pop songs: Only In My Dreams is a breezy Byrdsy jangle-popper, and Baby, a cover of an obscure 70s soul song, may be the most radio-friendly thing he's ever recorded. But he also devotes four and a half infuriating minutes to a song about eating schnitzel, set at a takeout window.
Then again, Pink's weirdness is a major part of his appeal. It just requires a lot of patience.
Top track: Baby