[sic] Magazine

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today

Just like Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti themselves, Before Today is ostensibly comprised of two parts. For those in the dark, the band is an amalgamation of (wait for it) prolific Los Angelino Ariel Pink and assorted musicians Haunted Graffiti ( Kenny Gilmore , Aaron Sperske , Tim Koh and periodically others). The album, a sonically varied exploration of Pink’s vision, is filled out to fruition by the Graffiti recruits.

Before Today is the latest instalment in what Pink has called the “Haunted Graffiti series”, and is without doubt their (or his) least underground offering to date. For example, exhibit A, and knocking around since 2008, “Can’t Hear My Eyes” is slinky, sultry, studio-produced stuff that pops with toe-tapping energy and late-night sax. Exhibit B, the super-smooth pop-funk of “Round And Round” is clean and catchy, and an ocean away from what Ariel Pink fans are likely used to. Replete with a sing-along chorus and reflective asides that give way to reprises, it is clear evidence that Pink is no longer stuck in The Doldrums of 2004.

Buzzing with sleazy sax, “Hot Body Rub” opens the album, acting as little more than a funky intro to the cover of “Bright Lit Blue Skies”, which trips along on West Coast harmonising and helter-skelter rhythms. Pink’s freak-folk schooling bubbles to the surface in the otherwise poppy “L’Estat (According To The Widow’s Maid)”. Yelping along to jittery tempos, Pink seems equally at home against acoustic scales as he does his newly adopted synthetic percussion. The soft synths of 80s pop cement “Fright Night (Nevermore)” as single material, confident quirks and swooshes pushing it toward the gap left by MGMT as they recoil from the limelight.

So ends the relatively predictable, safe half of Before Today. “Beverly Kills” then unexpectedly marries Klaxons -esque vocal spirals with insatiable, bouncy squelches and bass-driven Fleetwood Mac funk until it all descends into peculiar clicks and noises. Out of the blue, “Butt-House Blondies” mashes heavy glam riffs and solos with psychedelic vocal treatment and slowed bridges. The album’s psychedelic pop comes to a head on the stomping “Little Wig”, which is practically a lift from the Super Furry Animals catalogue, offset only by falsetto backing vocals and a tendency toward indulgent extension.

Only the instrumental “Reminiscences” seems misguided during this strong finish. Non-descript, it releases the head of steam that erstwhile surprise has created. Order is duly restored on the more introverted “Menopause Man” before the claustrophobic, Public Image -like post-punk jerk of “Revolution’s A Lie” brings down the curtain to what surely deserves applause.

In bravely stepping from under-financed shadows, Pink has grabbed the chance to bask in the sunlight. As concession, he offers a pop heart to his creature, and Frankenstein -like, true to Pink’s oddball roots, it’s still a monster composed of incongruous parts. Some are Pink’s own, some very much borrowed, yet new life courses through them all.

Before Today is released June 7th 2010 in the UK, June 8th in the US on 4AD .