Music

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti: Lover Boy

It’s fun to take a trip down a nostalgic path that never existed in the first place.


Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

Lover Boy

Label: Ballbearings Pinatas
US Release Date: 2006-03-28
UK Release Date: Unavailable
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"It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever."

The immortal line from This is Spinal Tap perfectly sums up Ariel Pink. His albums all sound the same: some strange and poorly-produced track using dated instruments fades into another style that's completely different, all while sounding like a third-generation copy of an audio cassette that some kid held up to the TV while crappy '80s music videos were playing. Sound absolutely terrible? Good -- because this is one of the best albums you'll hear all year.

The ears of lo-fi loving Guided by Voices followers will need no adjustment upon hearing Lover Boy, an early collection of songs re-released on his first label (Ballbearings Pinatas). The indie scene took notice when professional (and highly acclaimed) folk weirdoes Animal Collective signed Pink to their Paw Tracks imprint, releasing three albums of musical tape-hiss glory. His star is slowly rising, and if you're lucky enough to get caught into Ariel's own self-defined universe of nostalgia and wit, consider yourself lucky: he takes you to unexpected heights.

Here, re-released with six mostly worthwhile bonus tracks, Lover Boy pays a strong homage to his heroes of every decade, sometimes even sounding like the real thing (the brilliant '60s garage-rock inspired "Want Me" genuinely sounds like it could appear on Nuggets). His voice is far from perfect, which is half the fun. It's almost as if, missing out on his favorite decades of music, he decides to re-insert himself into them. Sometimes this creates tracks that, though not as interesting, aren't exactly failures ("Phoebus Palast" is the score to a really crappy '80s horror flick), though some are (the pseudo-radio drama chaos of "Blue Straws"). "Angel (Live on KXLU)" is for anyone who wonders what New Order would sound like on a shoestring budget -- one of many unnecessary questions that Pink answers for us, ourselves thanking him for the answers afterwards.

"This song's for you, man", he spouts on the '80s karaoke-pop opener "Don't Talk to Strangers", and one of the major problems of Ariel Pink becomes immediately apparent: though he is genuinely lo-fi, some moments of studio-clarity could make a huge difference towards your own personal enjoyment of the album (though this is true with all of his albums). "Don't Talk to Strangers" would have been a delicious '80s homage in a pro studio, but it's the amateurish vocals that ultimately keep it back from such a truly satisfying romp through leg warmers and bad TV graphics. "Didn't It Click?" and "She's My Girl" are other songs that suffer from this exact same problem. Though to some this comes across as splitting hairs, it's still viable. While going hi-fi would force some of the charm off of Pink, the results could be nothing short of overwhelming (though, to the contrary, Guided by Voices's turn towards commercial stardom was nothing short of absolutely miserable).

Pink's musical brilliance is only occasionally matched by his genuinely child-like wit, as on the title track he croons "Lover girl / I love you like an animal / I love you like a dog or a snake or a buzzard bird" with genuine sincerity. You might laugh, you might view it as the ultimate satire on pop radio, but either way you'll still enjoy it. In a sense, Lover Boy is just another good ol' Haunted Graffiti album: it's not perfect, but it's fun, funny, and endlessly fascinating. It's fun to take a trip down a nostalgic path that never existed in the first place.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

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Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

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From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

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This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

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