On first listen, it’s difficult to know what to make of Pom Pom. Perhaps it’s only possible to appreciate it if you’ve taken enough illicit mind-altering drugs. It could be the work of a new genius or a crazed madman escaped from a Hanna Barbera cartoon, ready to take over our minds with musical nonsense, Penelope Pitstop in hot pursuit.
Ariel Pink’s first ‘solo’ release fills your head with sounds and images from The Wiggles, The Banana Splits, Antoine de Caunes (probably naked or at least very scantily clad) and Willy Wonka’s Umpa-Lumpas. During the opener ‘Plastic Raincoats in the Pig Parade’, there’s more than a passing nod to De La Soul there too.
The playback of the samples and slightly out of time drum programming is reminiscent of those cheap toy keyboards that your well-meaning aunt bought your toddler for Christmas that has you spending the day, praying that the batteries aren’t the same ones powering those relentless little drummer bunnies on the TV adverts.
What’s really weird is on a second or third listening, the tracks become oddly more accessible. The Stranglers and Kraftwerk-inspired ‘White Freckles’ gets you nostalgic for the early 1980s. The abrupt shift from mental intro to an almost grooving verse is actually welcome, like a nurse administering sedatives or pulling the blinds.
Production on this scale isn’t done by accident, but is this is what a home studio on every laptop has given us? The textures can be wonderful – like the latter part of the New Order inspired ‘Not Enough Violence’, but it sadly doesn’t expand to take you somewhere musically much more interesting.
‘Put Your Number In My Phone’ – the most commercial track of the album – and the one that may even get some airplay, doesn’t help matters either. If you’d heard it, you might think this was a 60s-inspired disposable, quirky pop artist, making whimsy with lyrics about modern technology, set to a song that Micky Dolenz might have penned. But as far as the rest of the album goes, it’s a bum steer to say the least.
It’s not boring by any means, odd yes, but is this is the work of real talent? His first fumbling attempts at musical love-making that will see him grow to be a positive lothario when he matures? Or are we all just being had? Time, and repeat listening, will tell.