by Rob Cleveland
The last time I saw Ty Segall, he was fit to bust. Still, deep in the recesses of my mind, here’s what I remember: He wore a baby mask, twirling what resembled an umbilical chord on stage, like a psychopathic Roger Daltrey, with intermittent tantrums and nods to Suicidal Tendencies, shouting “All I wanted was a fucking Pepsi,” at will. The next minute, it was raining diapers from the balcony, and Segall was condemning his comrades for the parade, screaming, “I could have used those for my daughter!” Ty Segall does not have a daughter, and he may be armed and dangerous.
Now he’s out in the street, pulverizing perfectly good toilets with a real-live axe, looking sharp and colluding with Steve Albini. I’m not sure if this is an exercise in catharsis, anal-retentive redemption, an obligatory promo stunt, or all of the above. Whatever the case, he sure knows a thing or two about beguiling folk… Have a look back at this poor reporter’s nonplussed expression, worn after a performance on Chicago’s WGN station during the Emotional Mugger tour of last year. He does all of his own stunts.
So, it’s the year 2017, and we’ve got ourselves a second self-titled record from Sloppo since 2008. Nearly a decade later, Ty Segall continues to enthrall and enrapture his fans with powdered guitar tones, crispier than Panko. Ty Segall (2017) isn’t coy, but it is the real McCoy. The underground legend has put out god only knows how many albums now (because—who’s counting?); however, this one was all done in one live session with Master Steve Albini behind the board. The golden-mane-d Laguna Beach lunatic fringe has yet to pull the live trick out of his sleeve (until now), and I must say—it’s the first of its kind to get to the Moon.
What’s it like? Well—I’ll defer to Royal Tenenbaum here: “I’m not talking about dance lessons. I’m talking about putting a brick through the other guy’s windshield. I’m talking about taking it out and chopping it up.” The songs strike a balance between heavy electric vs. acoustic, or a combination of the two to taste. You’ve got five scorchers (“Break a Guitar,” “Freedom,” “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned),” “The Only One,” “Thank You, Mr. K”), three ballads (“Talkin’,” “Orange Color Queen,” “Papers”), and one scorcher-ballad (“Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)”). The live energy that’s been injected into this record is unprecedented for Ty. That’s the long and short of it…
The levels are all on point and the drums are tight and tuned to absolute perfection. “Break a Guitar” is a suitable entry point for one to make their acquaintance with the album; it’s a return to form in the name of rock n’ roll, with a mean, gritty and lean-spirited presence, and a familiar wash of fuzzy textures—here one minute and gone the next. The next tune, “Freedom,” sounds like a speedier, more hollowed out Manipulator iteration, with room for Charles Moothart to beat the shit out of the drums… Drums that pan wildly from left to right. Right to left?
“Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” follows, and it’s the Epcot center of long-form rock n’ roll. It’s a bit like Cream (i.e “Politician”), or a cracked-out rendition of The Doors' “L.A. Woman,” chock-full of raw power, in a Sabbath-y suite of sorts—going on without rest, and an unrelenting cowbell (on the quarter). Quarter or no quarter, the Wurlitzer anchors the ship, but only for a minute. High praise goes to Ben Boye, the boy wonder, whose pianism is a subtle beast on the LP. Moothart is a monster on this record too, rivaling the likes of Keith Moon, Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, and Ginger Baker. Which—I’m sure they’ll all meet one day.
“Talkin’” is Ty’s folksy Nilsson-alike sing-along, with a ragged swing. Its humbled twang is worth all of its weight in gold. “The Only One” and “Thank You Mr. K” might be the loudest, most raucous contenders, squealing duel-guitar solos and all. On the latter track, Boye bangs the shit out of the keys (this time with no restraint), even over the obliteration of a woebegone toilet and “Judy is a Punk” chuggings. “The Only One” ends in uproar, and laughter from all the feedback. At this interval, all the fun and lovely, extemporaneous shredding comes to a halt, but not for long.
“Orange Color Queen” is probably the most unique cut off the album. Although, it’s descending-ness/chord progressions remind me of a warped “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. The acoustic rippings are certainly comparable to the delicacy and finesse. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” also comes to mind. Certainly “Cosmic Dancer,” as Geeta Dayal cites the accurate Bolan influence in her article, “Ty Segall on Black Flag, T. Rex and why the Kinks made so much sense in 90s California.” Except, Segall can’t help but keep the debut single electric in sprouts.
“Papers,” on the other hand, depends on all of its acoustic trappings alone, and tape to hold it down of course. It’s actually proggier than we’re used to from Segall too, with fainter staccato piano triplets on deck. It’s practically classical, if not classier than the rest. It also kind of sounds like the break in “Layla” for a second there—the better half of that Derek & The Dominos song, albeit more minor-y. But look, I’m no scientist. I’m good at using words like “minor-y,” “descending-ness,” or “Scorcher-Ballad,” but I’m no scientist.
The last one is the scorcher-ballad of this batch. The belle of the ball. Again, very Neil Youngish, but with a guitar solo that is very hot in the cans on the left side. Very sinister! At the bitter end of the album, “Untitled” is an unbridled false start to—the beginning of the album, really. It’s a gag! A spoof on “Break A Guitar.” By the sounds of it, this might be the most fun the band has ever had in one room, all at once. So, thanks again for hosting, Albini… God bless you!
Ty Segall? The man is a mad-scientist and keeper of all things fuzz, culling pages from the books of T. Rex, Sabbath, The Stooges, Dinosaur Jr., Dylan, Nilsson and many more. The unhinged, emotional psych-rock guru that is Ty Segall—is someone who embraces his inner weirdo and never settles for mediocrity; the norm is criminal. In case we need reminding of that, for his last record, Emotional Mugger, he submitted official promo copies on VHS, sending bulky tapes to media giants with zero reservations. So… case and point. Say no more, say no more.
Segall is a force to be reckoned with, and impossible to ignore… He’s the easy, breezy, beautiful, garage-rock cover boy! Seeing Segall live is comparable to… I dunno—unearthing Jumanji in your backyard one day, dusting it off casually and being like, “Hey guys, wanna play?” What I’m trying to say is: The guy’s a bona fide genius. Hands down (warm or not).