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

"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.







Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.


Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.


Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".


Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.


Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."


The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.


Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.


The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.


Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.


King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.