Album Review of Ty Segall (2017) by Ty Segall.
Release Date: Jan 27, 2017
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Ty Segall is back with his first self-titled record since his 2008 debut, which should tell you that this is a restatement of basic principles: dispensing with overdubs and recording instead with a full band, this is an album that comes marching out of the gate, grabbing you by the front of your shirt and then playing the most heavenly rock your ears have heard in many a month. And that's not even half the story. Things kick off with Break a Guitar, which is crunchy and riff-tastic and perfectly in keeping with what you’d expect: yes, it’s slightly psychedelic; yes, it could be a Big Star B-side (still high praise), but whack it up high and by the time you hit the three-minute mark you’ll be painting your face, dancing in robes and half expecting the Age of Aquarius to resurrect itself.
It's been just shy of a decade since Ty Segall released his first self-titled album, and here he is, at it again. Another year tends to mean another record from the restless Segall (who told The Guardian this month that he disagrees with being seen as prolific, saying "look at the Stones or the Beatles back in the day — they put out two albums a year"), and 2017 is, already, no exception. Free from the conceptual Emotional Mugger or focus of the glammed up and glittery Manipulator, Ty Segall has the feel of a greatest hits compilation, if you will, despite being composed of entirely fresh goods.
Back in the ’60s, when bands like the Rolling Stones were averaging three new albums a year, they’d also drop quickie compilations along the way—like High Tides and Green Grass and Through the Past, Darkly—to summarize a particularly prolific period (or just cash-in on more casual fans). As someone who aspires to a ’60s Stones ideal—in terms of both his sheer level of output and his ever-evolving garage-rock aesthetic—Ty Segall is also wont to drop the occasional summary collection that allows the average listener to play catch-up. Except Segall is so restless and relentless, of course, that these compilations actually comprise all new material.
For all his exploratory forays and explosive assaults – not least on last year’s breathless Emotional Mugger – chameleonic garage wunderkind Ty Segall is surely at his most potent when aiming straight for the jugular. Having once declared, "Ty Segall doesn't exist. He is a collective of people wearing masks", his self-titled ninth studio album sees the presumably sleepless 29-year-old don a guise that hones the more refined hallmarks of his heady trip to date.
Ty Segall is suitably prolific for a garage rockstar – he has put out a solo album almost every year for the past decade, not to mention a raft of collaborations. Also in keeping with the unselfconsciousness of his chosen genre is the fact that there doesn’t seem to have been much progression: this Ty Segall, his second self-titled album, pedals back from the raucousness and heavy distortion of his last record proper, Emotional Mugger, and resumes the peppy but still relatively gnarly sound of 2014’s Manipulator. It’s a zany but melodically substantial record, in which the best songs (Thank You Mr K, Freedom) sit somewhere between the oeuvres of the Lemonheads and the Ramones.
Hang has a sincerity to it that I wish I heard more in music. If there’s one unequivocally positive thing I can say about this album, it’s that Foxygen isn’t phoning it in by any stretch of the imagination. There’s orchestration to spare (bits of it reminded me of Moody Blues’ Days of Future Passed, which you can take however you like), and the arrangements never sound lazy.
Where like-minded Californian indie rock artists like Thee Oh Sees and Ariel Pink often set out to challenge and alienate with such sounds, Segall is closer aligned here to more melodic types such as Christopher Owens, Kurt Vile and the solo albums by Segall’s guitarist Mikal Cronin. The folkier, T Rex-ish final third of ‘Ty Segall’ features ‘Orange Color Queen’, a tender love song to his redheaded partner Denée Petracek, and the ‘Cry Baby Cry’ rewrite ‘Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)’ – not a sentiment, let’s face it, that comes up too often in the US indie scene. Scraping off the garage rock grit and disjointed sharp edges that characterised his previous album ‘Emotional Mugger’ for this definitive self-portrait, Segall scrubs up great.