Believe it or not, this is about the tenth release already for the erstwhile Mr Rosenberg, and it would appear that the Californian is becoming something of an Anglophile of late. Look no further than opening track ‘Time To Meet Your God‘ as your early, undeniable evidence, where Ariel Pink has clearly been feeding Tubeway Army through a drip into his veins. Still not convinced? Well just skip forward a mere two minutes, look me square in the face and tell me that ‘Feels Like Heaven‘ (no, not the Fiction Factory song) doesn’t sound like Morrissey in his solo heyday. Go on. You can’t do it, can you?
…which is a little odd, considering the album is named for, and largely dedicated…well…Dedicated To Bobby Jameson, the tragic Los Angeles musician who, it turned out, was not dead after all, as everybody had long presumed, instead resurfacing after more than three decades in the wilderness back in 2007. So it’s a little confusing as to why the end of the splendid ‘Time To Live‘ needs to sound like QUITE such a convincing paean to the earliest works of The Human League, and even that comes after about three minutes of engrossing ‘musical vitriol’ that is more akin to Killing Joke.
Not that any of this matters, of course, because for all its seemingly haphazard references, if anybody is capable of wearing a coat of so many brilliant colours, it’s Ariel Pink, and the whole thing is surprisingly coherent.
It would be somewhat churlish of me, however, to try and hoodwink you into believing that the entire thing sounds like it was recorded in Eastbourne or some such – there is still a distinctly Californian sound about the sunshine and breeze of many of the tracks here, such as the gorgeous ‘Kitchen Witch‘, while ‘Do Yourself A Favor‘ is akin to Pink Floyd giving Brian Wilson evening pony rides along the Norfolk coast. And quite frankly, I have no idea what that means…
Fans of ‘Before Today‘, perhaps the most revered of this artist’s previous work, ought to be delighted to know that there are several nods back in that soulful but slightly off-kilter direction, like, say, ‘Fright Night‘ meets Spirit meets ‘No More Heroes‘. Or the slightly disturbing ‘Santa’s In The Closet‘, which rather feels like Falco fronting Air at 75rpm.
A concept album in the truest sense of the term, the man himself elaborates on proceedings better than I ever could: “We follow the protagonist through a battery of tests and milestones, the first of which sees him reborn into life out of death“, says Ariel, “(and) from there, he seesaws his way between the innocent love and the rock-solid edifice of childhood-worn trauma that together constitute his lifelong initiation into the realm of artifice and theatrical disposability.”
With that in mind, Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is sometimes quite brilliant, often nearly brilliant, and occasionally utterly baffling. Such as bonus track ‘Thank You Ode To The Goat‘, which is, essentially, the sound of an old time music hall stalwart performing his signature song. Bizarre, yet always fascinating, but I can’t help feeling it peaks with ‘Time To Live‘ a little too early on and, even though it has some truly lovely moments, it never quite reaches those heady heights again. Nevertheless it’s great to have one of the true visionaries of his time back, and sounding in fine fettle to boot.
Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is released on 15th September through Mexican Summer.