Album Review: Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse

[In The Red Recordings; 2012]

Conversations surrounding Ty Segall often wander well-meaningly into the realm of reductive rockist posturing and retro-minded influence saddling. I’ll admit, it is exciting to approach Segall’s music with a time machine state of mind. Segall’s influences range from the primordial muck of ’50s rock’n’roll to the lost-in-the-wilderness noise excursions of the ’00s with lavish stops everywhere in between. He grabs from the Nuggets, The Stooges, The Troggs, T.Rex — Segall even name checked Hawkwind and Black Sabbath in preparation for Slaughterhouse. But compared to even his closest geographical and musical bedfellows, San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, and The Fresh & Onlys, as a whole, Segall is an outsider in the rock re-appropriation game.

Talking about the San Franciscan in terms of his influences seems oddly like plugging your ears and “la-la-la”-ing in order to drown out the majority, if not at least a good half, of Segall’s appeal. There’s an earnestness and vitality and accessibility to Segall’s work and work ethic that is definitively a mark of the 2010s. In the discussions surrounding music and music listening practices in 2012, Ty is the antithesis of the blog-cycle, trend-hopping, zero impact, tumblr-devotees, but is still very much a fixture of now. Wholesale osmosis versus piecemeal dribble. He approaches Music (capital “M”) from all angles. He’s Ty Segall™, but tours with cohort Mikal Cronin and Sic Alps like he’s just some humble, knuckle-dragging sideman. And speaking of Cronin, Segall was a huge – but mostly anonymous – presence on the dude’s excellent eponymous debut last year. Elsewhere, the two have recorded a collaborative album, Reverse Shark Attack, which is still the most musically defined thing either has released. And if you haven’t been paying attention, Segall has already put out an album this year with Tim Presley aka White Fence.

But the point is, you should be paying attention. In fact, to fully grasp each subsequent Segall release, you have to be paying attention. It seems like a lot to ask in an era where everyones’ tastes have been whittled down to angry, stab-happy shivs, but there’s room — an empty space waiting to be filled even – for someone like Segall, whose name exceeds the person behind it, becoming some holistic, non-corporate force (I won’t say brand name) that can’t be fully felt on any one album or any one song. Ty Segall is a musical outlook. That’s not to say you’ll be completely lost jumping into last year’s Goodbye Bread — Segall’s most accessible and accomplished work to date – but let’s just say the record exceeds the sum its parts before it even starts.

Ty Segall takes after Jay Reatard in his economic one-and-done approach. Instead of fussing a song into over-thought oblivion, he sets about capturing the intensity of impulse. It a fundamental staple of the Ty Segall™ package. On his newest offering, Slaughterhouse, released as Ty Segall Band, a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy” gets aborted half-way through (“FUCK THIS FUCKING SONG!”), but is somehow made all the better for it. It’s Ty Segall in a nutshell. Strange, then, that Slaughterhouse is Segall’s first record backed by a full band. But it’s a revelation as well. On “Diddy Wah Diddy” it’s the beauty and chaos of the ship going down before it gets hit by an asteroid. It feels like Segall stripped to his most visceral and instinctual — zero rounded edges, all the barbed, human intricacies left in to stick out jagged and proud; all his previous inclinations cranked past infinity and left a burning carcass by the side of the road.

Meet The Band: Ty Segall on guitar, Emily Rose Epstein on Drums, Charles Moothart on guitar, and Mikal Cronin on bass. Slaughterhouse skews toward Segall’s pre-Goodbye Bread bash-and-crash tendencies, but even on the most in-the-red, vivisecting tracks like standout “Wave Goodbye” there are slivers of the newly-found melodic sensibilities Ty has been chasing down since last year. The record is filled in equal measure with Ron Asheton-esque feedback-screaming, into-the-void guitar solos and wordless, vocal serenades skewering the bedlam around them. Tracks like “I Brought My Eyes” and “What’s Inside Your Heart,” straddle both melody and take-no-prisoners rock pretty evenly, barreling through classic pop psych chords like a crashing spaceship.

Segall himself is a terror. Any tendencies he’s had toward freakout repression for the economy of his music are gone. Empowered by the band at his back, he sounds like a deranged, Id-charged lunatic. The title track is a chugging no wave blitzkrieg and Segall is left to scream his guts out, ending the song on a fiery, throat-tearing death cry. On “Diddy Wah Diddy” his mangled barks skip between octaves like a gibberish-speaking, intermittently-screaming, Malcolm Mooney-esque mental patient. Ty’s unhinged, wild-child demeanor is a constant textured presence throughout the whole record, whether it’s just apply-timed, Marc Bolan-esque grunts or bellowing, anthemic screams. It’s a presence that’s always been intrinsic to Segall’s work, but on Slaughterhouse he’s become and honest-to-god, fully-formed frontman.

On “The Tongue” and “Wave Goodbye” (and probably “What’s Inside Your Heart”) all of Slaughterhouse‘s strengths coalesce: Ty, melody, propulsive, uncontainable energy, and spastic yet tightened songwriting. “The Tongue” alternates between grunge-y power chords and a howling Segall before building toward a riff-pummeling, cymbal-crashing finish. And then there’s “Wave Goodbye,” which makes a compelling case for rock cut of the year with it’s swagger-filled bass riff, loud-soft dynamics, concluding twin guitar solo meltdown, and another indelible and manic performance from Ty.

The record is a nice little reminder of power psych bands from the last couple decades like Comets on Fire or The Heads, and ten-minute feedback droner, “Fuzz War,” is even reminiscent of underground noisies like Grey Daturas or anything John and Michael Gibbons were involved with. It’s cut from the same cloth as Brooklyn’s The Men, but Ty Segall Band bring a sharpened and astonishing lighting-in-a-jar kind of intensity to the proceedings others are hard pressed to capture. In a year where rock’n’roll is rearing its head in a big way (Cloud Nothings, The Men, Screaming Females), Ty Segall Band is a cut above the rest. Slaughterhouse is one of the most vital and animal rock records in a recent memory.