The epigram on Family Perfume Vol. 1‘s page on Woodsist’s site is a Ty Segall quote begins, “Fuck Nostalgia” and ends “SMELL THE TRUTH. FUCK THE TRUTH. FUCK ROCK AND ROLL. LOVE ROCK AND ROLL. And this is just vol. one.” Seems to me that Segall, who has been working with Tim Presley’s White Fence project towards the collaborative album Hair, due out later this month, really wants us to believe that Family Perfume is some real rock ‘n roll. There’s a definite confidence in a statement that includes the phrase, “Imagine if you will, that your uncle frank, aunt jane and cousing [sic] ricky all made out with George Harrison at the same time and felt good about it” that is also pretty risky. It’s a strong image to attach to Presley’s third LP, but strangely enough it isn’t altogether ridiculous or invalid. Family Perfume is a hazy culling of 60s psychedelia, but navigates the narrow passage of freshness mostly without issue, an impressive accomplishment considering the proclivity of many bands towards reverb, lo-fi production, jangly and/or fuzzy guitars, long instrumental passages acting as sonic simulacra for drug trips, etc. It’s difficult to ignore the nostalgic element of the album, as perhaps Ty would have us do, but here the ever-present lens of 60s pop is more ode to an aesthetic or a feeling than and attempt to manipulate us into association. Maybe that’s what I like most about Family Perfume: I never feel like it’s trying to trick me.
The album opens with a bleepy robot-voice introduction that clues us in to what the album is going to sounds like exactly not at all, but as the opening chords of “Swagger Vets and Double Moon” are overtaken by a livewire lead guitar and Presley’s oh-so-Lennon vocal work, we stop caring about what happened just a second early pretty easily. It’s a theme in the album, composed mostly of tracks under three minutes long, moving through a variety of ideas and textures all within the same small universe of idiom and touch, not unlike Guided By Voices without so much urgency, with instead perhaps a little more sunburn. “Do You Know Ida Know,” a slow-dance scene in a basement full of people who are probably just as high as you are, leads into “Down PNX,” a tweaky head-bouncer that collapses in on itself and warns (we have to wonder if self-referentially) “slow down, slow down.” “A Hermes Blues” is Paul Simon pop that feels substantially “cleaner” than the rest of the song, more straightforward in its narrative and more willing to let its hook sing out, and “Hey Roman Nose” sounds like it could have come out of Daniel Johnston’s notebook. It’s unfortunate that the strength of such tracks overshadows the more difficult and meandering tunes. Something about “Long White Curtain” doesn’t quite match up the way it has to, and “Take Away Life’s Endless Take” feels unfinished in a way that isn’t particularly endearing or productive to the album (or the song itself for that matter). For what it’s worth, in general, Family Perfume gets better, more fully-conceived, as it goes on, and we have to wonder if considering it alongside the forthcoming Vol. 2 will transform its listening at all.
“It Will Never Be” is by far the longest track on the record, and deserves to be. A sort of emotional and lyrical off-center centerpiece, the track is delicate in its instrumentation and generous in its warmth, as the best tracks on the album are. And when, about halfway through, everything begins to dissolve, we go willingly — don’t feel forced along into a indulgent occasion of weirdness, but rather seduced into a swirl of piercing tones, shifting slightly, always moving. If the album in its entirety feels open-ended, well, that’s because it is, but by any measure Family Perfume is a pleasantly disarming ride, loaded with great, barely noticeable moments — shifts in drum patterns that change a sequence just a little, a fantastically unexpected turn in a guitar solo (which happily only feel gratuitous sometimes), a line that’s profound and understated. In fact, maybe it is truth that makes us so eager to follow Presley. Fuck rock and roll.