Ariel Pink has had a cult following for a while now. Mature Themes marks his ninth album, but importantly only his second with Haunted Graffiti. You see, Pink is an enigma. His first seven LPs were produced more or less in isolation, recording in his home and for 8 years he went about his business gradually collecting fans. In 2010, he signed to 4AD and called upon a band, forming Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. 2010’s Before Today received rave reviews, as Pink moved to a more polished sound and Mature Themes continues this notion.
In some ways, Mature Themes is an apt title, as the album has a far more mature sound than his earlier work. Of course, this must be taken with a grain of salt as Pink maintains his quirkiness. While there is a number of great pop tunes, it wouldn’t be an Ariel Pink album without a song about Schnitzel or Nymphomaniacs. Only In My Dreams has the former covered as an unmistakable love song. The jingle-like guitar riff at the beginning masks the generally sadistic mood of the song. The socially awkward narrator of the song imagines this fantasy world were he can be with his dream girl. But while there are these sociopathic tendencies throughout the track, it is easy to just get taken away in the catchy guitar jangle that makes this a perfect pop song.
Sticking in the pop mood comes the title track Mature Themes. Sticking with a similar recipe from Only In My Dreams, Mature Themes has a similar synthesised guitar riff, with further synth parts setting the mood throughout the verses. It seems the narrator is the opposite from that in Only In My Dreams, as this one is more confident, rather seeking to please his girl, rather than simply idolising her.
The third ‘normal’ track on the album is a cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson’s song Baby and it is probably the least weird track on the album. It is a soulful arrangement that has Pink sounding like a young Marvin Gaye. It is possible that Pink takes this one more seriously because it is a cover and is required to work within a certain boundary, but it does not excite me as much as some other tracks on the album.
On to the more zany songs, Symphony of the Nymph uses Pink himself as a character with nymphomania. It’s of little surprise that Pink himself claims to be a ‘nympho.’ It suits him somewhat and it’s the sort of song that only he could pull off. Featuring a wide range of samples, includes various horse noises. The classic line ‘I don’t mean to burn any bridges, but I can’t get enough of those bitches’ is incredibly unsurprising for a person of Pink’s mental state. If it wasn’t for the strange topic covered in the song, you could draw comparisons to the likes of Pink Floyd or more succinctly, Hawkwind. The fact that Pink can write a song about Schnitzel and put it on an album is hilarious. Schnitzel Boogie makes me question why he would order a schnitzel with lettuce, tomato and onion only. Obviously he isn’t a fan of the Parma.
It seems for this album, Pink has two ideas. First there’s the singles, the pop songs that are quite well crafted and deliver an ultimately emotional message. Secondly, the weird that he is used to. By entering into a studio to record this album, his reputation will be enhanced but he will continue to move further away from his zany past. But if this means more songs like Only in My Dreams and Mature Themes, I would be quite welcoming of that.