S/T by Ty Segall
Genre: Garage Rock, Psychedelic Rock
Favorite Tracks: “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned),” “Talkin’,” “Orange Color Queen,” “Papers”
Thanks to a combination of sheer work ethic, a palpable creative restlessness, and his ability to just plain shred when he needs to, Ty Segall has become a figurehead in California’s indie scene in a relatively short time. Segall takes full advantage of the freedom that comes with being a solo artist, reinventing his artistic persona (though seldom straying from his scuzzy garage punk sound) with nearly every release. On TY SEGALL, his second self-titled album, Segall chooses to keep a good thing going by bringing back The Muggers, a backing band made of frequent collaborators that accompanied him on last year’s EMOTIONAL MUGGER. Segall purportedly increased The Muggers’ role in the writing and recording process for TY SEGALL, and it’s a somewhat new thing for Segall, who has a reputation as a solo-flying creative force of nature. The music still gives the distinct impression that Segall is the main driving force behind each song, but the Muggers play an important role on this record by increasing its musical complexity, and their presence makes this record better than it should be. However, Segall, an artist known for his live shows more than his records, is unlikely to make an impression through these songs for those who don’t get a chance to see him in person.
TY SEGALL opens on a wholly unremarkable note with “Break A Guitar,” which takes a Black Crowes-style riff, puts a whole lot of fuzz on it, and repeats it for three and a half minutes over a few repeated lyrical lines. Segall’s go-to formula of distortion-drenched psychedelia is prominent on this record, and it tends to fall flat when heard through a set of headphones or computer speakers. Like many of Segall’s songs, it’s more likely to land much better in a live performance, but this one in particular lands somewhere between bad and uninspired. “Freedom,” which incorporates an acoustic guitar into the Segall formula, comes out somewhere between Beck’s work on the SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD soundtrack and recent Wilco outputs, and has a quirky energy that does a much better job establishing Segall’s vision for this album, because when it lands, it can be very good. Unfortunately, there are more “Break A Guitar” type songs on TY SEGALL than otherwise.
The most striking change on TY SEGALL is the incorporation of a full-band ethos, and on songs like “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned),” Segall plays right out of the jam band handbook and it pays off for him big time. The lengthy, multi-movement “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” features a quiet, rhythmic jam section that is reminiscent of The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin.” “Talkin’,” with stylistic nods to country music, a slow, shuffling beat and three-part harmony, is a nearly perfect imitation of AMERICAN BEAUTY-era Grateful Dead. “Orange Color Queen,” which, to my surprise, is not a song about Donald Trump, but a love song (a rarity for Segall), draws from the Dead influence as well as a bit of Paul McCartney-esque melody to create a song that is sweet, but far from saccharine. Though jam bands are a much maligned part of the American music canon, it’s a bold choice for Segall to dip into this polarizing tradition, as it is in the process of rising back into respectability again, and it fits well with Segall’s live-oriented reputation.
TY SEGALL presents what could be interpreted as another rebirth of an artist prone to changing shapes and forms, but this time, he shows growth through being a better version of his own self rather than trying to add another wrinkle to his established style. Even if that approach is one that should usually be rewarded, this seems to be a case of Segall’s prolific output working against him, as we’re used to seeing more drastic changes than what we see on TY SEGALL in short periods of time. Listening to the songs on TY SEGALL is not a bad way to spend half an hour, and might be a good way to introduce yourself to his work if you haven’t heard it before, but those who are familiar with Segall’s schtick might have a harder time distinguishing this record from the last. Even so, Ty and the Muggers clearly have a good thing going on, and if this project were to become more permanent, it would be one worth paying attention to.
Verdict: Do Not Recommend