Not to be confused with the 2008 Castle Face Records release of the same name, Ty Segall’s second eponymous LP provides more of the eccentric Californian’s scattergun amalgam of rock ephemera. Convalescing from the spacier sonic expanses of Emotional Mugger, here Segall and some regular collaborators return to the more familiar bedrock of ‘60s garage punk.
Again working within the infectiously shambolic flow of his group’s signature sonic parameters, the Californian native applies his playfully psychedelic and petulant creativity to this latest collection of tracks. Like Emotional Mugger, Ty Segall stands in contrast to cleaner and more concise reference points like Manipulator. But as far as the distortion, vocal sneers and general riff heavy aggression go, it’s all here.
Finger pointing and cryptically vitriolic opener ‘Break a Guitar’s agitated fuzz protests the ennui of success. Fevered and fuzzed out from the get go, there’s distinctly pensive malaise underscoring the track’s swaggering rock facade. While the material on Manipulator and Ty Rex may have revelled in the glammed up persona of ’70s antecedents, ‘Break a Guitar’ and follow up ‘Freedom’ closer reflect the ’60s-hangover mentality of the decade. As his glam idols Bowie and Bolan would come to join musical figures like ex-Beatle John Lennon in expressing disillusion with the trappings of fame, so too does Segall launch into a snide lamentation of musical celebrity. It’s more tension than release. Lyrics bait the listener with an invitation to pick up the guitar; the frontman would more readily retire to the bar.
The catharsis of rock’s commercial juggernauts joined with the primal aggression of garage seems to ensnare Segall’s imagination. Given the multi-instrumentalist’s expansive musical output, an overview of which would constitute a short essay in itself, it’s surprising he’s made it this far without expressing a sense of frustration. But far from a creative nadir, here this air of discontent is repurposed into a wellspring of inspiration. Amidst these negative vibrations, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that Ty is having fun inhabiting the headspace.
The artist’s powering riffs occasional tangents into showy rock pageantry come alongside a tongue in cheek irony. This is evidenced by the ten minute and heavy rockin’ ‘Warm Hands (Freedom Returns)’. Here Segall shoots from the hip, throttling a bunch of ideas against the wall to see what sticks. Again he pulls it off, the result is an ambrosial yet crudely stitched amalgam of blues, west coast psychedelic, grunge, punk and doom-laden guitar.
In stark contrast, ‘Talkin’’ plies a near-plodding country rhythm. Here the seething torrents of non-specific rage redirect towards an unfaithful lover. While honky-tonk piano might take the initial lead, smears of powering fretwork and bashing drums carry the day.
‘Orange Color Queen’ cuts through the lo-fi haze to begin a gentler suite of tracks. The imperious descent of the seventh track’s bass figure and inclusion of syrupy lovesick lyrics of Ray Davies vintage both work to assume a Brit Pop flavour. Segall’s reedy pastiche of George Harrison’s quavering vocal grain on ‘Papers’ recites a humorous paean to taping paper to the wall. It makes an endearing nod to the Quiet Beatle’s own economical take on psychedelia as well as his navel gazing lyrical introspections.
With ‘Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)’ it feels like the singer has fully emerged from his thematic malaise. It combines the airier tone of Ty Segall’s latter tracks with some of the album’s earlier rapture. However, it’s a climactic tease. The jangly closer is followed by
‘Untitled’, little more than the fumbled 19-second revisitation of the intro to ‘Break a Guitar’. With things coyly drawn to an abrupt close, the listener is left to puzzle whether the penultimate track is some conceptual masterstroke or a slap-dash moment of inspiration.
True to his oblique persona, Segall’s cards remain close to his chest. But perhaps here it’s a more rarefied sonic concoction than what’s come before. Continuing on his quest to explore his own sonic potential, the LP conceals depth amidst the violence of a loud and scrappy sound. Ty Segall is something which takes a little more time to digest, but it’s no less worthwhile. For fans and newcomers alike it’s enough to ensnare the listener back into Segall’s twisted yet equally weighty mass of work.
‘Ty Segall’ is out now.