by Max Kaplan (@kapslock3)
If there’s a reason why you can’t read a single bit on Ty Segall without the word ‘prolific’ thrown at you instantly, it’s because it’s integral to establishing the sort of music that the guy makes. We’re not dealing here with another nostalgia-laden 2000s rock act scrounging the crates of their local record store to cobble together a thesis of an LP every four years. We’re dealing with the shaggy guy on his hands and knees digging through the dollar crate in search of the next riff to make the pubic hair fall right off his scrotum, landing in a fried pile at his sneakers. Ty Segall & Freedom Band tear, and on Deforming Lobes, their latest live LP, they deliver more of the thunderous, gut-mangling hard rock that has compelled them to keep boiling out jam after jam.
In his ten years now as the chief purveyor of garage gnarliness, Segall has spawned micro-personas that have made his fecund discography a bit easier to keep track of. We met the sun-bleached soul man on Goodbye Bread, the glam maestro on Manipulator, the freak-folk…eh… freak on Sleeper, and the sludge renegade of his work with Fuzz. In January 2018, he released Freedom’s Goblin, an hour and a quarter of technicolor grooves and campfire stomps that feel like the closest we’ll get to a White Album of Segall’s forking musical-psyche.
On the the evening of Freedom’s Goblin’s release, Ty Segall & his Freedom Band, with Mikal Cronin on bass, Charles Moothart on drums, Ben Boye on piano, and Emmett Kelly on guitar, began their three night stand at Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom, with Steve Albini behind the mixing table. Though Freedom’s Goblin was released on the day that the tunes on Deforming Lobes were recorded, don’t be fooled into believing that this is any sort of recorded document of that string of shows, let alone the Freedom’s Goblin-era itself. What we have here are 36 minutes of throbbing renditions of previous cuts and covers, that act as an album all of their own.
In the tradition of many of the most rockin’ of live LPs, Deforming Lobes is formally introduced by a man’s voice, “Ladies and Gentlemen, The—“, before being interrupted by wailing guitars. And we’re off…
‘Warm Hands’ from Segall’s 2017 eponymous effort is turned into a nine-and-a-half-minute spree of prog-garage mayhem. Although Freedom Band act as a sort of all-star troupe of previous Segall collaborators, no individual band member seizes hold of the spotlight for longer than it takes for the group to shift to the next act of the suite. The sludgy romp of the first half gives way to the intertwining ‘Little Johnny Jewel’ guitars of Segall and Kelly in the middle section, before ramping off full throttle to a close.
For a live LP, there are very few instances of crowd noise or stage banter. Instead, Albini blends the tracks into one another, allowing them to crunch along as a unit of full-bodied tracks that sound completely at home on Deforming Lobes. This LP certainly holds its own singularity in Segall’s already dizzying discography.
Live favorite “Finger” from 2010’s Melted lies at the center of the record, creeping along for over two minutes before blasting off into a blizzard of bass, squall, and eardrum-evisceration. Segall, sounding as amphibian as ever, howls into the abyss, “I saw it on the tip of my finger, I got it, what was in it was all in your figure.”
Deforming Lobes doesn’t aim to be anything more than exactly what it is: 36 minutes of Segall and his colleagues gnashing their set to bits and washing it down with a gulp of diesel fuel. With Albini on boards, there’s a sense of homage to hard rock’s past written all over this record. From the runtime and guts of Kick out the Jams, to the cover of blues rock cult heroes Groundhogs’ ‘Cherry Red,’ Segall tips his guitar to those who paved the way for music like this to still be made 50 years later.
If a record like Kick out the Jams thrives on the radical turbulence of the world that the MC5 carved out for themselves in 1969, then the songs Deforming Lobes harness their energy from the sheer love of visceral noise, and the unabashed joy that comes from creating it.