Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

It's tough to know how Dick Clark would rate a tune like "Gettin' High In The Morning," but even at his most bent, songmaker Ariel Pink has a way of evoking old episodes of American Bandstand broadcast from a different room. There's no overstating the strangeness lurking in Pink's work—most of what he's done is at least as weird as Ween—but it's just as hard to overstate the wondrous effect of such robust talent delivered by such skewed means.


Now onto his third real-distribution album after finding fans in the crypto-hymnal rock band Animal Collective, Los Angeles curio Pink is a home-recording fiend who mutters through ideas that sound like he barely sketched them in advance. They aren't even ideas so much as mainline communications from the universal language of pop. Touchstones abound; Pink's grainy tape dreams summon the sounds of everybody from Phil Spector to Beat Happening to Steely Dan. But his gestures toward inclusiveness—not to mention his amateur-savant command of craft—are all his own.

House Arrest starts off with a simple song, "Hardcore Pops Are Fun," that bops over '60s guitar clips and a show-stealing bassline. It sounds like a thousand other lo-fi approximations of grandeur, but the grandeur grows out of scale as hooky details accumulate. On the next song, Pink sounds humbled and wowed as he sweetly states, "Every time I pick up the pen, I get interesting results." And he's right: Whether he's doing odd psychogeography in "West Coast Calamities" or pining after a girl worthy of a parade-prodding chorus in "Helen," Pink happens upon illustrious chords and sound effects that go against his method's apparent messiness. Some of his songs are too warped to weather for long, and House Arrest strives for (relative) consistency at the expense of the more outlandish sonic thrills of Pink's The Doldrums or Worn Copy. Wander into his world, though, and before long, he sounds like a mystic channeler of pop music from too many eras and locales to count.

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