MORE

The Weirdo

“I’m weird. Weird. Yeah, I’m weird.” ’Round about midnight on the final night of South by Southwest, with the majority of tourists back on the coasts, Ariel Pink is doing a spot-on impression of Leo DiCaprio’s retarded character in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (Ariel Pink . . . Arnie Grape. Hmmm.) His arms are bent at the elbows, his locked wrists near his chest. He dances giddily about the stage, smiling, while his bassist sits on the floor, smoking a cigarette. (Obviously, he’s seen it go down like this before.) Meanwhile, the guy with the spiky hair and gold-rimmed glasses who is projecting prerecorded music through an 8-track recorder surveys the deader-than-a-doornail crowd. Show us your nipples! says the voice inside Pink’s head. Like a stripper using bedroom eyes to up the ante on a tip, Pink creeps his T-shirt up toward his neck and massages his stomach and chest. Show us your cock! Pants unbuttoned, zipper halfway down, Pink teases the audience with a flash of the uppermost portion of his hairy nether region. Show us your butt! Opting to not go down like Jim Morrison in Dade County, Pink does a 180 and displays his bald, blemish-free butt. By now, the keyboardist has jumped ship and is standing in front of the stage, laughing at the absurdity of it all — Pink’s escapades and the never-ending, one-song set of nothing remotely close to the organically experimental pop vignettes on his latest release, Worn Copy. Home is the slums of Beverly Hills, and there Ariel Pink (a.k.a. Ariel Rosenberg, 26) records music with the prolificacy of fellow outsider musician, sometimes-collaborator R. Stevie Moore, the elder statesman of the DIY ethic. “With my help [Moore] just might make the cover of MOJO before he’s dead and not forgotten,” Pink tells TinyMixTapes.com. It’s estimated that Pink has recorded 500 songs on 200 to 300 8-track cassette tapes. He performs all of the instruments himself, doing percussion with his mouth — unless, of course, he’s playing live. The result is a borderline free-jazz, too-cool-for-art-school, nouveau style that has Speak & Spell fanatics playing Pink’s first official album, The Doldrums, backward to decode the hidden messages embedded in his looped-out, saccharine-laced, improvisational disco and soul singing. It was chaotic drummer Jimi Hey, of the underrated and consequently short-lived All Night Radio, a two-man collaboration with former Beachwood Sparks bandmate Farmer Dave Scher, who introduced Pink to avant-psychedelic Brooklynites Animal Collective. Impressed with a CDR of random songs, the Collective took Pink’s advice and re-released The Doldrums — an album recorded when Pink was in the throes of a drug binge during his final days at CalArts — on its Paw Tracks label. (Understand, the initial pressings of Pink’s albums were basically enough for friends and family and those worth trying to impress.) The Doldrums is the second in a series that Pink calls his “Haunted Graffiti” collection; other titles in the collection include House Arrest and Lover Boy, both of which were released on the way-underground label BallbearingsPinatas. Spanning 75 minutes and featuring 17 songs, the soon-to-be-released Worn Copy is No. 8 in the Haunted Graffiti collection. The intro track, a three-passage suite called “Trepanated Earth” (a play on “trepanation,” an under-the-table form of brain surgery thought to increase one’s consciousness permanently), begins with what sounds like a River Phoenix voice-over — “In my world, I hold the key of wisdom in my hand, and lead all the children of the Earth to a door they previously believed locked only to find it open” — that is shot through with guttural howls expressing such sentiments as “You can all kiss my ass,” “Mankind is a Nazi,” “Humanity is the devil” and “You really think I give a fuck about the world?” Guess not. From there Pink catches a multisong flow showcasing vocal impersonations on par with Gary Wilson and Vincent Price. On “Artifact,” the sound of metal seemingly shimmying against metal layers Bauhaus-inflected ruminations on the bygone “Golden Age,” as told 25 years from now by “the sun of the future.” On “Credit,” Pink imparts a sense of frustration stemming from a retailer’s refusal to refund a bunk boom box. And on “Life in L.A.,” loneliness contends with the following lyrics of eternal hope: “Come on out if yer gay/Make your babies and money/Move in together/Take out that loan, honey, it’s now or never.” As an added bonus, Worn Copy includes a video of a song from The Doldrums called “For Kate I Wait,” in which Pink, sporting a ponytail and silver-sequined top, pines for an unrequited love. (It’s worth visiting Paw-tracks.com for snippets of other Pink videos, particularly the fetishistic “Lover Boy.”) With Pink tilting slightly toward quantity on the quantity-vs.-quality scale, is he anything more than a sorcerer of garble, or is he some incarnation of the pet sounds Brian Wilson released into the heart of darkness? Who cares, as long as he stays true to his word: “I’m weird. Weird. Yeah, I’m weird.” Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti No. 8, Worn Copy, comes out May 3 on Paw Tracks.