It’s not hard to see why Ariel Pink would be fascinated with forgotten pop singer—and fellow Los Angeleno—Bobby Jameson. Jameson found minor success in the 1960s, only to see his career derailed by bad business dealings, substance abuse, and mental health issues. He spent much of the ’70s in institutions or living on the streets; by the ’80s, he’d left the music business completely and was presumed dead, only to resurface in 2007 with a blog and a series of YouTube rants in which he detailed his tragic tale. It’s a classic underground story, and Ariel Pink has long been focused on what lurks in the shadows of his sunny hometown, creating music that brings that murky past to life in vivid, psychedelic hues. There’s nothing ironic about Pink’s investment in Jameson. And with an album dedicated to the recently deceased singer, Pink has managed one of his most heartfelt and gorgeous works.
Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is explicit in its concept, which the artist describes as a seesawing trip “between the innocent love and the rock-solid edifice of childhood-worn trauma that together constitute [Jameson’s] lifelong initiation into the realm of artifice and theatrical disposability.” And while that narrative certainly adds depth and weight to Pink’s typically flippant, absurdist take on L.A. nostalgia, Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is more notable for how personal it feels.
As he has on his 10 previous records, Pink hops unabashedly across aesthetics and fidelity. “Feels Like Heaven” explores Captured Tracks-esque haziness; “Another Weekend” twirls a slow dance under a mirror ball; and “Do Yourself A Favor” works as a tie-dyed campfire sing-along. Even the songs that could fit most comfortably with Pink’s recent albums—the freaky death-as-birth mediation “Time To Meet Your God”; the danceable, Dâm-Funk-featuring “Acting”—ditch the winking quality that he’s virtually turned into a brand. Pink likely knows how easily his own career could resemble Jameson’s, and is grateful that his own music has so far avoided record-crate obscurity. Dedicated To Bobby Jameson is the most comfortable Pink’s ever sounded with his own success, turning legitimacy into a noble weapon: ambition.