Loverboy - Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (2002)
Originally released with House Arrest via the Ballbearings Pinatas label in 2002 as part of a two-CD set, we’ll be looking at this album on its own with its original track list.
Start with: “Don’t Talk to Strangers” and “So Glad”
Why it’s worth revisiting: Though originally released contemporaneously with House Arrest, Loverboy is illuminating in its overall distinct character from the former. Standout tracks "Don't Talk to Strangers", "So Glad", and “I Don't Need Enemies (Holy Shit! Single 45)” alone make this album a valuable addition to the Ariel Pink back-catalog.
Ariel Pink gets straight to the point on Loverboy with the instantly likable “Don't Talk To Strangers”. This brilliant lead track includes an enthusiastic spoken intro by Ariel, claiming “I recorded this song from memory, I heard it a long time ago/I don't know who wrote it/I don't know who sang it”. There’s no indication that the track is anything but an AP original, though its retro sensibilities and sheer catchiness might lure a listener into believing that it’s a work from another artist and time. This, combined with the intentional sound fidelity many have dubiously (yet understandably) dubbed “lo-fi”, is characteristic of the hypnogogic thread that permeates AP’s work from this era. The track sounds like it could be a memory, and yet it’s not.
The album proceeds with “Didn't It Click?, which features word permutations and rhymes over a fairly barebones musical backdrop. Interestingly, Ariel uses the phrase “sick trip,” here, which is fairly unusual outside the world of one of his inspirations, Gary Wilson. “She's My Girl” is effective with it repetitive groove, synth arpeggios, and spoken and sung vocals. The minor-tinged, march-like “Poultry Head” is an effective change of pace, leading to the circular motif that is “Older Than Her Years”. The chorus alone of standout “So Glad” is worth the visit, though the entire track works and is an album highlight.
The straightforward “Want Me” fits the overall character of the album, and leads to title track “Loverboy”, which is notable as a collaboration with the kindred and enigmatic John Maus. “Jonathan's Halo” lilts and sways for almost exactly four minutes, and is followed by “Hobbies Galore”, penned by longtime Ariel Pink influence and collaborator R. Stevie Moore. “I Don't Need Enemies (Holy Shit! Single 45)” pairs AP with Matt Fishbeck of Holy Shit (the two collaborated extensively and successfully on the Stranded at Two Harbors album by Holy Shit), and is another standout track with it’s pop groove, backing vocals, clever chord changes, and hooky melody.
“Let's Get Married Tonite” is noteworthy in that it ties together disparate sections in a way more characteristic of albums like House Arrest or Worn Copy than Loverboy, which on the whole features songs more traditionally cohesive form-wise. This version of the album closes with “Ghosts”, another collaboration with John Maus, who told The New York Times Magazine blog The 6th Floor that the track “is built up around the harmonies present in medieval composer Guillaume de Machaut’s rondeau “Rose, Liz, Printemps, Verdure”.
Happy listening, weirdos.