It's curious that record number 11 from Los Angeles' Ariel Pink (nee Rosenberg), Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, would be somewhat of a concept record, given Pink's affinity for scatterbrained sounds that tend to indulge as many whims as possible. But following the success and praise of 2014's pom pom, Pink chanced upon the forlorn and tragic tale of Bobby Jameson. Pink's fascination turned to exploration, and the resulting record both dishes up a narrative that touches upon the fleeting highs and heavy lows of Jameson's life, and acts as a return to Pink's signature, bedroom-crafted lo-fi stylings.
Jameson was somewhat of a cult musician from the 1960s that fought for fame (working with the likes of Frank Zappa, opening for the Beach Boys, having a record backed by the Rolling Stones), but instead was met with unpaid royalties and fell into obscurity, drug abuse and was presumed dead — twice. Pink himself has seen his share of troubles (though certainly not as rough), including his breakdown during 2011's Coachella, a kerfuffle with press surrounding comments deemed misogynistic and recent admissions to feeling the doldrums in regards to making music and art, so it's easy to see why he might identify with Jameson.
Dedicated to Bobby Jameson features some of Pink's liveliest and punchiest work, despite the rather disheartening character that is its namesake. Pink, ever the outlandish outsider and master of hypnagogic pop, has crafted a record that's dynamic, diverse and as typically non-linear as is expected from him. Time is a recurring theme on the record, from opener "Time to Meet Your God" to "Time to Live" ("You cannot die, you have to live, that's what it's for") to "I Wanna Be Young," which explores the ideas of time running out and fading youth. Is this in reference to Jameson, or Pink himself? Maybe both.
"Santa's in the Closet" is Pink's goofiest go on this record, where he delivers lines like "Santa's gone and lost his apron, Santa's cooking up some bacon" in a somewhat deranged British accent. Elsewhere, the organ-driven delight "Dreamdate Narcissist" makes amusing mention of modern things ("Netflix and chill"!) and quips, "She's sending me an Uber 'cause she wanted some dick," the synth boom and haze of "Kitchen Witch" feels like a lost '80s B-side and groover "Death Patrol" features a disco-worthy string motif that at times scratches uncomfortably in that classic Ariel Pink shake-things-up kind of way.
Two minutes into "Time to Live," the synth dances atop a crunchy guitar riff before Pink delivers vocals that may bring to mind the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star." "Another Weekend" is tragically tender, proving that Pink is more than capable of sweeter, simpler songwriting, and is reminiscent of "Dayzed Inn Daydreams" from pom pom. "Feels Like Heaven" is a definite nod to the Cure (a favourite band of Pink's) and a true pop gem, an absolute highlight. Beautiful backing vocals provided throughout the record by fellow Los Angeles musician/director (and Pink's lady) Charlotte Lindèn Ercoli Coe are a cool and calm contrast against Pink's various vocal deliveries (and boy are they varied, almost in a split-personality sense).
Despite his claims of musical malaise, Pink continues to display excellence in his eccentricities on Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, one of his most dynamic records to date. (Mexican Summer)