Review Summary: Segall turns in a typically strong set of garage-y goodness, but he's capable of so much more
Traditionally, the mid-career eponymous album release is spun one of two ways - restatement or reinvention. In the first case, the artist looks to cast off the highfalutin concepts and dodgy stylistic experiments of their past and embrace a (ugh) ‘back-to-basics’ approach - think Pearl Jam or Killing Joke. In the second, the opposite is intended - to make a statement of musical change, like Blur
’s sharp turn into Pavement-esque indie rock and The Velvet Underground
’s exchanging of avant-garde mores for dreamy folk.
It is perhaps not so clear-cut as to where the new LP by prolific indie mainstay Ty Segall fits into this framework. His 14th release (including collaborations) in a 10-year career, Ty Segall
functions chiefly as a sampler and summation of this vast catalogue, incorporating playful psych-pop, fuzzy glam stomps and pummelling garage into an attractively digestible half-hour package. There’s even a 10-minute epic in the form of album centerpiece ‘Warm Hands/Freedom Returned’, segueing through several distinct movements varying from Sabbath sludge to loose jazz-rock. It’s the most ambitious single track Segall’s ever done and it works wonderfully, aided (as is the rest of the album) by a typically beefy Steve Albini production job. Though much of his career has been spent on the lo-fi side of the audio spectrum, the success of this shift to a clearer sound, perhaps less forgiving of lazy songwriting, is testament to Segall’s grasp of the fundamentals. Indeed, if there’s anything consistent about Ty Segall
it’s the solid melodies and hooks on almost every track - opener ‘Break A Guitar’ is pure Marc Bolan worship, with Segall straddling a meaty (ahem) guitar riff with tight harmonies and a typically bratty vocal performance. Shamelessly derivative - absolutely, but who cares when it’s this much fun? ‘Freedom’ begins sounding rather unfortunately like a lazy Kasabian b-side but redeems itself with lush harmonies and a killer chorus, while the tender ‘Orange Color Queen’ sees Segall doing his best Ray Davies impression over lilting rhythms.
If there is a major flaw to Ty Segall
, it’s one of context and comparison. Given his typically rapid rate of recording and release, for all its strengths and likeability the album risks being just another entry in an already huge discography that musically doesn’t contain anything not seen on previous records. The lack of a true stylistic focus is both a strength and a drawback - the variety it provides is welcome, but this lack of commitment to a single theme also means that there are better, more focused examples of Segall’s tender acoustic ballads (Sleeper) and psychotic noise throw-downs (Slaughterhouse) to be found elsewhere in his back catalogue. The second issue is one of ambition - the record’s high points make it clear how talented a songwriter and frontman he is. However, it also makes one wonder what could be; if he spent years rather than weeks writing and recording his next release; if he made more of an effort to look forward rather than to the past for inspiration; if he decided to be more than just the brilliant student coasting along on a 2:1. Until that question is answered, Ty Segall
remains an enormously enjoyable slab of retro energy, and a great starting point for anyone looking for an entry point to an important and ever-expanding musical legacy.