Review Summary: A ripping little nod to the past.
The latest generation of music-makers wears their influences less like badges and more like face tattoos. It used to be that DJ Shadow crushed and recombined the old and unknown, Radiohead looked at rock through the lens of Thom's favorite electronic producer of the week, and Foo Fighters took the simple melodies of grunge and took away the pesky distortion and emoting. Now, The Black Keys are 60s soulsters, Best Coast is 70s surf-rock, M83 is the 80s, Silversun Pickups are 90s college-radio, and Ty Segall- well, Ty Segall Band
really, really wants to be Motor City rock.
While it may seem pedantic to encase these folks in imaginary cages of genre, they don't do themselves any favors with their respective product. Take Slaughterhouse
as a case study. What with the self-absorbed distortion that both opens and closes the album, the dirt-coated simplistic chord structures, the more-style-than-substance guitar solos, and Segall's reverb-encased wail, it's hard not to hear The Stooges or MC5 playing in the back of your head.
Taken on its merits, Slaughterhouse
certainly isn't a bad album. It's balanced well between manic punk sprints and chugging long-form stompers, each track transitioning naturally into the next with sighs of feedback, sprinkling cymbals, and off-the-cuff studio commentary (“*** THIS ***ING SOLO!” takes the cake as the best line from the entire album). The tunes are simplistic but massive, odes to blown-out amps and punk ethos. The guitars are the stars of the sound: squealing, snapping, and tandem solos are the order of the day, helping obscure Segall's shortcomings as a vocalist for rocking songs, and the bass and drums do their job admirably.
It's when the Segall and Co. break free of rock convention and innovate with touches of absolute insanity that the album shines brightest. Their cover of Bo Diddley's “Diddy Wah Diddy”, while no doubt completely blasphemous in every sense of the word, is unadulterated fun, with the slight break in the chorus giving way to a wall of sound, throat-shredding screaming and the best guitar solos on the album. It's a dirty-as-sin take on one of the 1950's dirtiest songs, and Segall and his posse pull it off flawlessly. Then there's the three-song powerhouse of “I Bought My Eyes”, “The Tongue”, and “Tell Me What's Inside Your Heart”. Each of these has a variety of tones, ample doses of melody, and outbursts of vocal improvisation, all tailor-made for blasting out your convertible-top while cruising the streets in the dead of night.
In other places, the album just drags under the weight of its influences. Opener “Death” is plain, simple, and uninspiring, a dud if ever there was one, and the musical spasms of “Muscleman” and “Oh Mary” add little to the album as a whole. Finally, there's the chief offender, closing track “Fuzz War”, a ambling ten-minute fuzzfest that feels unearned at its best, but a sonic smudge at its worst.
Still, the tracks at least have precedent in the influences that birthed them. Slaughterhouse
, in all, is a hearkening back to those influences, a ripping little nod to the past. While this may compromise some of the music by making it too much nostalgia and not enough innovation, it also makes for some fun new takes on tunes, too, shaping up garage-rock for a spin in the summer of 2012. Unfortunately, it'll take more than that for the Ty Segall Band to carve its own spot in the world of rock and roll.