When San Francisco psych-punk workhorse Ty Segall released Twins a couple of weeks ago, it was branded the followup to last year’s Goodbye Bread, a statement that’s technically true insofar as that record was the last product stamped with nothing but the eight letters of Segall’s name. But including the tracks on his collaboration with Tim Presley’s White Fence (Hair); including the eleven songs on his first record he’s made with his touring band (Slaughterhouse); including a pair of 7” singles; and including the half-hour’s worth of bashing and wailing and crooning that precedes it, Twins closer “There is No Tomorrow” is the thirty-third song to be released in 2012 by Ty Segall. The guy likes music. All kinds of music: Sub Pop-era Nirvana, burnouts and castaways from the Summer of Love, the hum of tube amps pushed nearly to bursting, flaming nuggets of garage, early- to mid-period Beatles. All of it, at once, for hours.
Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that bands regularly put out two or three LPs in a given year–the Fab Four themselves released thirty-five tracks in 1964. Twenty years later, the Minutemen would push Double Nickels on the Dime’s forty-five songs to the very edges of its two LPs, while Stephin Merritt seems to have stopped at 69 Love Songs only for that number’s thematic resonance. While Double Nickels and 69 Love Songs are both revered in their own right, those projects command close scrutiny, their sheer size drawing the listener into a kind of orbit. But Segall’s body of work is fractured and seems tossed off, brilliant in an almost slapdash way, baroque and curling like discarded metal filings collecting in a pile beneath some massive machine; you get the impression, listening to these three records, that these songs didn’t need a microphone in order to exist, that their creator is simply playing, playing, playing.
Which, as it turns out, isn’t true. Not entirely. In a recent SPIN profile, Segall tells David Bevan that he’d rather spend time recording than out on the road: “You can get weird,” he explains. And while Segall shrugs off his early output as having been recorded in “a mad dash,” the 2012 releases seem to have been put together carefully, even fussed over. This is perhaps most obviously true of Hair. The guitars here are massive, of course, but Segall and Presley aren’t afraid to let them noodle over a set of Bolanesque chords before opening the throttle on “Time.” Segall overtly acknowledged his debt to the T. Rex frontman with last year’s Ty Rex EP, but here his noisier instincts are tempered with mellotron leads and the kinds of stately vocal melodies that Bolan floated across Electric Warrior’s glassy surface.
As if its title weren’t enough of a contrast with its predecessor, Slaughterhouse open with a full minute of shivering feedback before finally settling in to “Death”’s grooves. Segall and Charles Moothar’s guitars pair off, trade licks, double one another and then descend into minor-key imitations of their original melodies before retreating back into chaos. Standout “I Bought My Eyes” finds the two chasing one another down the length of a melody that twists itself around an even-more-furious version of Nirvana’s “Aneurysm.” But the verses here are subdued–relative to that chorus–and capitalize on Segall’s gift for delicate melody; if you squint, the jangle of guitar and jolly vocal harmonies practically sound like The Byrds. The song chugs towards its ending, fading out just as it rebuilds itself into finger-tapping powerpop, Segall soloing into forever. Later, Segall and Mikal Cronin rip the “oo”s straight out of “From Me to You” and stitch them onto the fuzz-bass triumph of “Mary Ann” where they hang like a patch on the back of a denim vest, while “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart” approximates the rattle off the walls of the Cavern Club.
It’s a trick Segall repeats by himself on Twins. The swirl of orchestral back-masking and feedback that opens the record in “Thank God for Sinners” feels like the other side of “A Day in the Life.” The song’s sunny verses and fuzzed-out chorus are shouted down by a furious, caterwauling stack of guitar power that sticks around when the chorus comes back again, revealing and highlighting the power that had been hidden in the initial melody. Later, his voice burrows through the hard rock of “The Hill,” shouting in a brassy accent that makes him sound like McCartney grounding an out-of-control jam session. While it’s a thrill to hear Segall do this kind of stuff with a band behind him, it’s baffling to imagine him writing and recording it by himself. If this is garage rock, Ty Segall’s living in the upstairs apartment.
Segall’s apparently got a fresh Neil Young tat on his arm, and, like the Horse at their best, he and his various collaborators buck and stagger with a kind of beautiful abandon: The riff and handclaps in Twins’ “Love Fuzz”–which seems like it should be the title of every one of his songs–was nicked from “Cinnamon Girl,” and “Handglams,” from the same record, melts itself into a morass of burned-out bass and stomping drums straight out of “Hey Hey, My My.” But Segall’s work more closely resembles the Neil Young of Buffalo Springfield: the outsider, the skeptical hippie who never quite gave himself over to the idealism of the era despite his enchantment with it; in another history, “Mr. Soul” could just as easily have been Ty Segall’s. Like Young, Segall’s an incredible melodicist who seems completely unburdened by his own talents. There’s nothing ornate that can’t be torn down, and, conversely, there’s nothing so dissonant and formless that a little decoration can’t be hung on it. Listening to Ty Segall can feel like a kind of immersive reenactment, a lesson in what made the clang of those early Beatles performances–the ones Young would’ve heard up in Toronto–so thrilling and so threatening: It’s maximum pop rock. words/ m garner
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