Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti declares its new mission with the robocall refrain, "Who sank my battleship? I sank my battleship," from "Kinski Assassin", the opening track on the band's sensational new album, Mature Themes.
Rather than build on the louchecore of 2010's Before Today, Pink takes a different path on Mature Themes, one designed to undermine expectations and exorcise a fresh clutch of demons. Pink has always had a gift for the earworm, that ingenious ability to tether inflatable melodies to nonsensical gibberish like "I'm eatin' schnitzel" that relentlessly bounce around the head long after the music has stopped. But this time around there's more deadpan phooey than yacht rock irony, more Devo and Zappa than Toto or Boz Scaggs.
That said, Mature Themes still takes the Porcaro brothers' candied template for its beating heart, while expanding into pure sunshine pop:
Previously, when Pink sang, "I want a lady as beautiful as a sunset on a strip," he came off as a jaded hipster, a cynical poseur, but not this time: now the dream is real. On Mature Themes the band sounds like they've actually grown up and sank a few battleships along the way.