(Drag City, 2011)
If anything, I guess this single proves that Ty Segall is gonna one tough nut to crack as a musician. When I slipped it out of the sleeve and played the A side on 45 (no handy dandy indications on the label as to the correct speed), it appeared that Segall had taken all the artistic development shown on his previous LP Goodbye Bread and thrown it right into the bin. Gone were the Hendrix-style guitar heroics and Kinks-inspired whimsical song structures and the Nirvana influences that bubbled up to the point of inescapability, and in its place was a swamp of sludgy downer riffs and Beck helium falsetto impersonations that sounded like either Ween on seriously bad acid or an outtake from last year's Melted that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Yikes!
Both "Spiders" and "Hand Glams" were such a staggering disappointment that I knew something had to be rotten in Denmark, so I slowed my turntable down to 33 and things kinda made a bit more sense. If you were expecting a continuation and improvement on Goodbye Bread's acoustic melancholy and grunge-addled take on the traditional singer-songwriter thing, then you haven't been paying attention. Segall is a young dude that grew up with the Internet's endless free culture smorgasbord at his disposal, and he's been trying on new styles like a hyperactive teenage girl at Aeropostale throughout his entire recorded career. In the past year, he's also dropped a gleefully irreverent EP of T. Rex covers and a bootleg-quality live LP called Live In Aisle 5 which had pitch-shifting level fuckery all over the damn place, suggesting that Segall got all drugged up and decided to mess with everyone's heads for the sheer malevolent joy of it. Unlike the studied, artsy pretentions of fellow San Francisco garage rockers Thee Oh Sees, Segall seems to be pushing further into new arenas of sonic playfulness because it's fun and he knows that his audience knows that there's always going to be another perfect little noisy gem creeping up along the bend.
Even at the correct speed (and I'm STILL not entirely sure that it is), the two originals on side A are loaded with sludgy downer riffs and totally incomprehensible stoner-rock vox that are buried in the mix and coated with a metric ton of distortion. "Spiders" sounds a bit like Flipper or the Butthole Surfers at their darkest, and it's over before it shows any potential to be a migraine-inducing mess, while "Hand Glams" rides a simple, descending riff and screeching white noise into a suffocating tarpit that reminds me a bit of "Mrs." off Melted on a horrible, terrible bad day. On the flip, there's a cover of the Groundhogs' classic biker blues rock jam "Cherry Red" which really shows where Segall's Roman nose is really pointing these days. It scissors out most of Tony McPhee's extended soloing and the ham-fisted white boy jamming from the original, yet retains the stomping, jittery groove that makes the song such a touchtone for us jaded record collector nerds. Sure, writing perfect fuzzy rock n' roll songs is great and all, but I can forgive an artist like Ty Segall for taking detours and pushing the boundaries and boxes people seem so eager to hem him into. Hey guys, remember when Kurt Cobain recoiled from mainstream adulation and made a noisy, weird record just to piss people off? Time has certainly proved that he was in the right, and Ty Segall's talent is impossible to deny, so strap yourself in for the devilishly creative detours ahead.