Sunday, Sept. 12

It's funny how music that seems meticulously composed and tightly arranged on recordings can sometimes come off as careless, chaotic and—worst of all—annoyingly sarcastic during a live performance.

The hook-filled, 1970s radio-inspired tunes and Beach Boys-style harmonies that so enliven the recent album, Before Today, by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti sounded like arch parodies when the band played at Club Congress. Singer-songwriter Pink and company sounded like a combination of Ween and the Flaming Lips on a bad night.

I was looking forward to Pink's show, considering that I'd interviewed him for an article that ran in these pages when the band came through town only five weeks before. Witnesses to that gig (at another nightclub) testified that Pink and his band delivered a killer concert.

An effusive and animated artsy/slacker type, Pink certainly knows how to craft lovely classic-pop tunes, and this was proven by versions of "Fright Night," "Can't Hear My Eyes" and "Round and Round" from the new CD—but too often, the songs devolved into psychedelic noise. He can sing, too, exercising both a basso profundo and a spritely falsetto. It seemed on Sunday night, though, that Pink was laughing more at his audience than with it, playing the songs primarily for their kitsch value. The bleached-blond singer erected a wall of irony between himself and the audience that you couldn't have penetrated with a battle ax.

To give Pink a break, it should be mentioned that in between songs, he offered the all-ages crowd this disclaimer: "I just act weird because I'm so insecure or something like that. ... I'm a fucking anarchist, a thespian anarchist."

Although the well-rehearsed four-piece backing band performed admirably, the bubbly pop meringue of the band's records became a diffused cacophony during the hour-long set. The fact that the performance was plagued by a sludgy mix—it sounded like we were listening through mud—didn't help.

Relatively new local act Discos opened the show with about 35 minutes of attractive keyboard- and percussion-dominated rock art that droned and slanted in just the right postmodern way, flirting at times with the faux-naïve "pop" sound of Brian Eno's early records such as Here Come the Warm Jets.


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