Ty Segall could be forgiven for simply wanting to be himself. Rather than steadily hone a signature sound, Segall has used each new release to giddily leapfrog between rock ‘n’ roll subgenres with disorienting speed and finesse.
On 2013’s Sleeper, Segall turned off his amps to try his hand at an honest folk record. The next year’s Manipulator saw him summoning the ghosts of Bowie and Bolan as a glam-rock mystic. This time last year, Segall was donning a screaming baby mask during live shows to further heighten the disturbing and chaotic horror punk of Emotional Mugger.
Perhaps as a welcome sign of clarity, the just-released Ty Segall features no such overarching concepts, themes or consistent styles. Instead, these nine songs (10 only if you count the untitled concluding guitar belch) distill his many talents into his most concise album in years.
Opener “Break A Guitar” is a ripping statement of purpose, the kind of bombs-away rock ‘n’ roll fans can always depend on Segall to unleash, regardless of which genre he’s tinkering with.
This first track also provides a suitable introduction to Ty’s latest band. Charles Moothart reprises his role behind the drumkit as does Mikal Cronin on bass and Emmett Kelly on guitar. Newcomer Ben Boye, with credits on records by Angel Olsen and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, contributes keys.
The album’s secret weapon comes in the not-so-subtle touch of ordained punk saint Steve Albini, who recorded and mixed the record in his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago. It’s a wonder Segall hasn’t requested Albini’s help before, as his crisp, low-end heavy touch forces the crushers to flatten and the gentler songs to ring bell clear.
While Albini’s touch allows the crunching tenacity of “The Only One” and combustible licks of “Freedom” to truly pummel, it’s openhearted lead single “Orange Color Queen” that really steals the show.
Over lyrics bursting with candy-coated metaphors directed at Segall’s girlfriend, the mid-fi production and tasteful instrumentation create a new benchmark for the singer’s future ballads.
While that song and other quieter moments like “Papers” stand out well on their own, Ty Segall also features “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned),” the longest, most volcanic song the rocker has constructed since his days in the Slaughterhouse.
If Segall’s breakneck output over the past 10 years has at some point left you bored or winded, consider this self-titled record a worthy re-entry point. While far from a masterpiece, Ty Segall provides a neatly packaged summary for why the singer is a modern rock ‘n’ roll treasure.