Goo Is You Essential Albums #4: “The Pink Album”(LP2)

Even the thought of making a record as good or better than Diary is madness. Diary was a watershed moment in alternative rock music. There are two primary points in the emo timeline: before Diary and after it. It was a genre-defining, category-defying masterwork. It was a celestial and heavenly work of art. It means everything to people like me.

It’s my life’s blood.

The eponymous “Pink Album” (also known as LP2) was released in 1995, only a year after Diary and several months after the band’s first breakup. “The Pink Album” is a marvelous record. Like The Beatles album its packaging makes reference to, “The Pink Album” is a multi-layered, extremely complex, and curious release. I love albums that take their name from colors and I feel that there is something to color theory that lends music an even more significant meaning. Toning down the passion of red with the purity of white results in the softer pinks that are associated with romance and the blush of a young woman’s cheeks. Since pink is really a mixture of red and white, it’s almost more of  hue or a tint than an independent color. “The Pink Album” is is a projection of pink atmospherics. It’s a celebration of every complicated quality of its chosen, designated color.

While there are hints of Diary in “The Pink Album’s” makeup, it’s certainly not as broken or emotionally demanding as it. Pink is a transformative color by definition. “The Pink Album” marks a deep spiritual change in band leader Jeremy Enigk, but we’ll get to that in just a bit. Let’s continue to focus on color theory, the psychological definitions of pink, the philosophy of pink, and Sunny Day Real Estate’s sonic application of pink.

Pink is one of the more delicate colors. It’s feminine, it’s inexpensive to produce, and it’s loud. Contemporary color theory posits that pink is tender and charming. They are choice colors for flowers as gifts for romantic partners because of the color’s inherent cuteness and associations with renewal. In conclusion, consider the following: Although sunburned skin and watermelons are pink’s natural associations, the color is loaded with historical meaning, knee-jerk reflexes and cliches. In some cases, it is quite appropriate; in others, perhaps the only cliche worth using is one, which is ripe for a vivid transformation.

If we use pink’s symbolic transformative qualities to make sense of the album’s overall color-coded meaning, we would have some pretty powerful evidence in our corner. Jeremy Enigk experienced a transfiguration in his own life. He deeply and suddenly gave himself to Jesus Christ and converted to Christianity. His newfound spiritual devotion is said to have led to the dissolution of Sunny Day Real Estate. Although Enigk, Hoerner, and the rest of the band have all denied these claims, none have gone so far as to assert that Enigk’s unexpected spiritual change didn’t at least factor into it.

Enigk was only twenty-years-old when he made Diary. It was a smart record about abstract and broken feelings. Less than one year later, he found God. “The Pink Album” is never overtly about conversions or about Christ. Even when 5/4 makes a vertically literal reference to the New Testament’s savior, the arrangements are too musically intellectual and challenging–too lyrically isolated to be heard as a song of praise. “The Pink Album” is certainly is bit more energetic than Diary but it’s not an altogether lighthearted experience. Its tracks are mostly shorter and more immediate but Enigk’s lyrics remain just as unclear as before and his vocal delivery conjures the same alien qualities as Diary.

“The Pink Album”, while parts of it do sound like a more self-assured Enigk who’s become increasingly confident in many sonic aspects, it does not seem to represent an emotionally healthy songwriter in the indescribable throes of begin born-again. Enigk still expresses a damaged, unalterably broken pathos. Enigk’s lyrics are so indirect that they can be said to hold as many different meanings that free-association can account for. Enigk’s even states in interviews that most of them amounted to sheer nonsense.

“On a lot of songs, there aren’t lyrics! In a lot of cases, we never sat down to write them, because we just wanted to get it out of the way as fast as possible. So I just sang a lot of gibberish, which makes it really quirky. My favorite is the Japanese translations.” –Jeremy Enigk on writing “The Pink Album’s” lyrics

Could have fooled me. All I hear in these songs are emotive blasts of visceral impact. Even Enigk spouting random words off the top of his head can make my life better. He’s right about the quirkiness though, there truly is a more ebullient sonic characteristic in many of the songs. That has to do more with the zest with which they are played than the musical language they possess. Enigk still hits you hard with well-placed screams and deliberately calculated pathos. It’s this therapeutic and inspired quietLOUDquietLOUD musical performance on the LP that expands on the grammar of Diary‘s more accessible tracks like Shadows and devotes itself to poppier, albeit Martian terrain. This an emo album for depressive energizer bunnies.

“The Pink Album” is less sincere than Diary, which was a very vulnerable LP that capitalized on brokenness and projected raw and precise emotional truths. “The Pink Album” sounds a lot more like Sunny Day Real Estate the band just playing incredible music, freed from Diary‘s more deliberate conceptual soundscapes. Where Diary provoked very specific reactions through meticulous sonic designs, “The Pink Album” sounds positively carefree in in contrast.

This isn’t to imply that “The Pink Album” is any less musically exact than its predecessor. In a way, Sunny Day Real Estate’s painstaking methodologies remain virtually intact. The songs sound a bit looser, kind of quirky and animated, but they’re still bound by masterful designs. What’s most strikingly different about Diary and “The Pink Album” is that the latter is not as dedicated to absolute emotional openness. Diary used innovative sonic acrobatics to describe the indescribable. “The Pink Album” takes different, partly parallel avenues to achieve similar, but less affecting results.

“The Pink Album” doesn’t have an underlying theme. These are not songs with a unified musical goal. They’re just amazing songs collected on the same record. Diary was about transporting you directly inside of Enigk’s heart and it was about composing beautifully detailed songs that allowed for the highest amount of pathos possible. “The Pink Album” is about a band at the peak of their musical ability, playing for the fun of it, and allowing a song’s power to emerge organically. It’s the sonic expression of bittersweet emotions. This is a happy sad record. It’s a very careful framework that even songs like Rodeo Jones (recorded during the Diary sessions) fit seamlessly into.

“The Pink Album” is a balancing act between two competing factions: the meaningful and the meaningless. The most fascinating thing about the LP is the intimate connection between these two equally valuable camps. This is what Sunny Day Real Estate explore on “The Pink Album”. It’s about the intimacy between what is meaningful and meaningless, significant and unimportant, powerful and absurd, holy and profane. It’s about how one is turned to the other and vice versa. It’s about conversions. It’s about closeness.

Enigk uses many tools to accomplish Sunny Day Real Estate’s more complicated sonic goals. It’s his lyrical indirectness and alienated, incredibly tender vocal delivery that he most utilizes to express forever and demonstrate infinity. Jeremy Enigk and Sunny Day Real Estate possessed ineffable talent and absolutely transcendental qualities.

As I’ve said before, Jeremy Enigk is emo music’s Wolfgang Amadeus. The songs on Diary and “The Pink Album” are nothing short of incendiary symphonies of sound, color, and feeling. This isn’t meant to be read as hyperbolic. What I’m saying is something I wholeheartedly believe. Sunny Day Real Estate composed the most beautiful music I have ever heard. In Enigk’s universe, Mozart wore pink.

The most incredible thing about “The Pink Album” is the sonic conversation that takes place between the guitars and bass. It’s a different dialect than the one that Diary both defined and perfected all in the same place just one year earlier. For one thing, Nate Mendel’s bass assumes a more prominent role in the songs, flexing a more talkative musical character. Dan Hoerner seems to establish his guitar-work within more flexible arrangements, providing “The Pink Album” with a catchy readiness that takes advantage of the LP’s idiosyncratic makeup. The way the band feeds off each other definitely doesn’t sound like there’s a barrier between them or that they’re in the process of breaking up. In fact, they sound positively unified. Enigk and Hoerner embark on an excellent sonic discourse, one that fully captures the uniqueness and sonic propulsion of this extremely gorgeous record. Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith  combine to provide “The Pink Album” with a more punk-minded, indie-aware rhythm section that boasts a remarkably well-defined structural confidence and creativity.

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