Album Review: Ariel Pink - Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

In 2014, American lo-fi musician Ariel Pink released pom pom, his first album without the ‘Haunted Graffiti’ moniker. The 21st Century’s answer to Todd Rundgren’s 1973 gem A Wizard, a True Star, pom pom was sprawling, inventive and very very weird. Pink’s follow-up, Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, reins in the scatterbrained madness. In its place, however, is something more consistent, sincere and refined.

Album Review: Ariel Pink – Dedicated to Bobby Jameson

Pink’s credentials as a pioneer of the nostalgic ‘hypnagogic pop’ genre are fully displayed on Time to Meet Your God, the opening track that feels right out of an 80s straight-to-VHS sci-fi film. Feels Like Heaven is absolute melodic bliss, with lovey-dovey lyrics that would be cheesy if it wasn’t for the enchantingly beautiful music. The next two tracks, Death Patrol and Santa’s in the Closet, are more familiarly bizarre ones. A groovy bassline and a range of silly voices populate the former, whilst Pink adopts a comically thick German accent on the latter. Still, as unusual as they are, they flow more naturally into the album than the madder stuff on pom pom.

“…I Wanna Be Young slickly remakes an old Haunted Graffiti rarity, with lyrics that hit much harder since Pink has aged. This level of lyrical depth, whilst not alien to Pink, has never been as prominent and effective as it is on Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.”

The title track – inspired by the troubled life of ’60s folk musician Bobby Jameson – boasts the catchiest hook on the album and some of Pink’s most heartfelt lyrics. Time to Live wouldn’t sound out of place in the early days of MTV, even referencing the Buggles’ genre-defining classic Video Killed the Radio Star. Another Weekend, the lead single, alternates between the melancholic, folky verses and the lush, psychedelic pop chorus to trippy effect. Next, I Wanna Be Young slickly remakes an old Haunted Graffiti rarity, with lyrics that hit much harder since Pink has aged. This level of lyrical depth, whilst not alien to Pink, has never been as prominent and effective as it is on Dedicated to Bobby Jameson.

Bubblegum Dreams is one of my favourites. Its blend of Beach Boys inspired vocals, dream pop lyrics and swirly neo-psychedelia flawlessly channels experimental pop masters Animal Collective. Keen observations about Uber, self-absorption and ‘Netflix and chill’ drive the energetic Dreamdate Narcissist, then Kitchen Witch wraps a simple love song in gothic, new wave goodness. Do Yourself a Favour recalls the whimsical psychedelic folk of Pink Floyd founder Syd Barrett’s solo albums. Finally, Pink remakes Acting – originally a collaboration with funktronica musician DâM-Funk from his 2015 album Invite the Light – concluding the album in smooth psychedelic soul style.

Ariel Pink has always been able to write an excellent song, but he’s also often sidelined that ability for the sake of mad experimentation. On Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, however, Pink proves exhilarating eclecticism and fantastic songwriting aren’t mutually exclusive, as well as allowing a bit more humanity through for good measure.