When The Killers wrote that Indie Rock and Roll song (you know, the Indie-Rock-n-Roll-For-Me one) you had little doubt when you heard it that they knew nothing about that which they were singing. We in the civilized world know that for all The Killers are a perfectly passable pop band, they wouldn’t know Indie Rock and Roll if it were to kick them in the shins and call them ugly. I believe that Ariel Pink knows Indie Rock and Roll. I’m not saying this is a good thing. Or indeed a bad thing. In fact, I’m refusing to pass judgement on this album. I will reveal the reasons behind this later, so stick around. It’ll be like the review version of The Da Vinci Code or The Sixth Sense.
The production on this album is terrible. It sounds like it was recorded in your bedroom, and the sleeve notes do indeed reveal that it was recorded ‘At Home’. Ariel Pink plays all the instruments bar a couple of guitar solos. It’s all so lo-fi it hurts. Tapes are constantly hissing; songs end abruptly when someone stops the tape; all the guitars are scratchy and all the keyboards buzzy. It sounds like a long-deleted tape-only release from the 80’s. Pink sings like a mixture of Lou Reed and David Bowie, and was clearly raised on bands like The Replacements and The Smiths (that is, indie legends who could write pop tunes). I’m still not passing judgement. I’ll bet you’re wetting your pants in anticipation, aren’t you? His lyrics are either horrible or delightfully twee, depending on your mood. “Will I write a song you love today?/ There’s no way to tell,” he pines on ‘Interesting Results’, and throughout the album his word play moves little closer to Wilde or Hemmingway. And it’s at this point I feel ready to reveal what I think of all this.
There should be a fanfare here. Imagine one.
House Arrest sounds like an album made in a bedroom by a boy who most likely doesn’t like sports, keeps a notebook, reads books and probably has a fringe. It’s an album that I’ve heard in many different forms over the past few years, constructed by friends or friends of friends with access to 8-track recording. It sounds like an album made by someone who isn’t interested in the industry side of music, and just wants to play his songs. You can’t hear any concessions to fashion or to other people’s ideas of what it should sound like. You can imagine Ariel and his Haunted Graffiti shrugging nonchalantly if you asked about sales or target market. It’s a private diary note that got copied and bootlegged out of the house. And for that I like it. This is Indie Rock and Roll for Me.