This wasn’t the plan. The plan was to review one of the myriad of new albums coming through the door on an almost daily cadence. But here I am, late Monday night, sipping some scotch and digging through my Fanatic books by Henry Rollins building out playlists (said playlists are public and can be found here on Spotify and Apple Music for those inclined to check out some seriously great music) and the need – nay, the urge to listen to Ty Segall came over me. So here we are, with his 2017 eponymous album playing through the speakers, every gnarled guitar lead and garage soaked riff firing up my brain’s pleasure center like an fireworks display at Disney World. I’m shocked there isn’t already a Ty Segall entry on the site, but what better way to introduce the man than Ty Segall, right?
I don’t remember what tied me to the man’s music. I’m sure it was on one of Rollins’s radio shows, but I also distinctly remember listening to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast where Segall was a guest. I was immediately drawn to what Segall was selling: classic, dirty guitar driven garage rock, taking influences from everywhere and running like he stole it from a Woolworth’s, security hot on his heels. The guitars were so filthy, fuzzed out to the stars but embodying a real classic sense of melody and song structure that pulled back to the 70s and 60s. The song may have come off of Manipulator or one of the Singles collection, but there’s something of a glove being thrown when an artist releases an eponymous album (the second time he’s done so) so let’s dive in and see where it leads.
Ty Segall kicks off with “Break a Guitar” and to these ears it’s immediately apparent that 1) Segall and engineer par excellence Steve Albini have captured magic, taking all of Segall’s musical penchants and wrapped them into a definitely statement of his place in time, and 2) Segall’s lyrics are, more often than not, completely superfluous to what is happening musically. This is a dirty, driving rock song, multiple solos and big choruses hitting in primal places but ultimately it’s just about a guy trying to be a big star, so much that he breaks his guitar. No worries, though: he was made in the rain and will be at the bar. That’s it lyrically. Far from being a detractor, it makes the ripping grooves and solos stand out and speak better than the lyrics can. We’re all made in the rain, and even if we break a guitar that’s okay because we’ll be at the bar. Is that cosmic? I don’y know, but it makes me want to dance, so I’ll take it.
“Freedom” mixes acoustic guitar behind the distortion, and indulging in some focused listening (currently to the via on my Grado RS2e reference series cans) it’s amazing how something so dirty and raw has such vicious sound separation. That’s Albini for you, though there’s not a Segall album I don’t love sound-wise, so credit to him as well. “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” completes the mini suite, and the doubled vocals along with the loose, slippery vibe of the bands (essentially his Fuzz bandmates and Mikal Cronin on bass) just hits me in the feels. I don’t know why – when I attempt to record and write music it never sounds like this, but inside, this is the sound of my body living. The wandering solo echoes the course of the blood through my decidedly think arteries. It’s the epic of the album, so much going on with extended solos and jams coming together and coming apart…I can’t explain why I love this music so much. It sounds like people vibing and exploring each other that’s unguarded and uninhibited. I’m probably more jealous of that than I care to admit, so let’s move on.
(drunken aside: do I just go through all my Ty Segall vinyl over the next few weeks? Maybe…if I’ve learned anything about this site it’s never to commit)
“Talkin'” is a breather, a relaxed, shambling blues that acts as the soothing comedown from the majesty of “Freedom” and “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)”. Thus endeth Side One. Side Two opens with the lurching, heavy “The Only One”, and if it lacks in comparison to the epic performances on the first half, it serves as a reminder of just everything Segall can do style-wise if he puts his mind to it. “Thank You Mr. K” propels forward with a punk edge that feels at once familiar and fresh. Sure, it’s not the star of the show but it acquits itself nicely as a second half barn burner. At first listen “Orange Color Queen” feels like another breather, but I love the way it carries in this very specific mood – one that for me works much better than “Talkin'” does. Here’s is where Swegall’s lyrics help propel the song forward; I can picture Jagger crooning lines like “You’re beautiful, lazy / Orange Color Lady / The morning sun wants to know where you go” just as easily as I can hear Segall sing it.
“Papers” is a gentle, Kinks-derived song that shows just how attuned Segall is to his influences, and has the chance to show off the keyboard prowess of Ben Boyle. And then we come to the closing. “Take Care (To Brush Your Hair)” has a somewhat flippant title, but it proves to be the perfect closer: what starts off as a pretty, slightly twee ode to about self care shifts halfway through to bring in some raucous guitar chords before bringing it all back home.
So where does that leave us? And what does this say about why I’m so drawn to Ty Segall? I know it’s a mystery to my friends: this is definitely not one of those shared experiences where we all squee and gush every time the man releases a record. But there’s something about how the crunch of the guitars can’t quite mask an intimacy and nerdiness for the very things I’ve grown to love in the last 20 years. There’s so much music being shot at us I can’t hope to keep up; so much from decades past I’ll never hope to make headway (though the Lord and my wallet know I keep trying). Somehow Ty Segall digs up the best bits of the past I continue to dig through and and digests them, regurgitating them back into something that gnaws at my marrow.
I love it. I love how it echoes against the music I grew up listening to, and how it pushes forward, reclaiming that past for the present when everyone else is content to go into territory too uncharted for my tastes or content to blather the same four chords. There’s a sense of experimentation with Ty Segall’s music that resonates with me in a way few artists do, and I’m more than happy to continue following the muse down whatever obscure or seemingly (to others) trite holes he scrambles down.
Let’s keep this going. Let’s find music we love and revel it in it.