In the case of Ty Segall, slow and steady truly does win the race. This San Francisco garage-rocker has been plodding along for years now, releasing a hodgepodge of solo singles, EPs, and records for the better part of the past three years, and that doesn’t even include his work with countless other bands including Sic Alps and Epsilons. But with each solo record it’s hard to deny just how much Segall has grown as a songwriter over the past few years; and Goodbye Bread, his latest, and first record for Drag City, is easily his best LP to date.
Frankly, Goodbye Bread does fall into a rhythmic pattern fairly quickly. For the most part, these tracks are steady, mid-tempo rockers that’ll leave your head nodding at a zonked-out, mesmerized pace. But before any of this can start to feel repetitive or monotonous, Segall has you hanging on his every hook — the songwriting here is so strong that each song – despite their on-the-surface similarities – feels completely autonomous and deserving of your attention. Segall toys with different styles, incorporating everything from bubblegum pop to Lennon-like ballads (recalling both his Beatles and post-Fab Four career), to laid-back, slacker anthems of the 90s, to the psyched-out crunch of the Cramps (which here is much less prevalent than on previous records). Goodbye Bread leaves you hanging on each strum, waiting for the next drum fill to take you who-knows-where next. That nearly every song seems to end suddenly, almost arbitrarily, forces the listener to savor each track, because even after a handful of listens, those final notes will still knock you down as if they came out of the blue.
Other than early flops, “California Commercial” and “Comfortable Home (A True Story)” — both fine but forgettable; the former a snarky send-up of Golden State livin’ that’s over too quickly, the latter a sweet but drab ode — Segall’s mix of consistency and unpredictability is thrilling. The abrupt shift on “My Head Explodes” from an acoustic jam, complete with eerie 60s folk melodies and harmonies, to a blown-out chorus of strained, distorted vocals and guitars makes the song’s title all the more appropriate. Interspersed throughout the fuzzed-out dissonance of “Where Your Mind Goes,” are these split-second guitar fills, while his vocals, despite their comparative cleanliness, are lost for the better, with only scarce pleas that sound like “where are you going” making it out alive. Even the calmer tracks carry the same punch, despite a lack of in-the-red fireworks; the snappy, syncopated blues base of “I Can’t Feel It” that’s given new life with each subtle change, whether it’s the switch from lyrics to “ba da da”s, or the classic cue of “Split” before Segall breaks out just one of many earworm licks. Segall shows off his guitar chops throughout Goodbye Bread as well, his freak-out solos adding an extra punch to the already close-to-perfect title track and the rambling and captivating “I Am With You” — he vamps on single notes till they’re close to bursting; with each pluck his guitar wailing with pain, ecstasy, or both.
Goodbye Bread is one of those albums that reminds you why you first fell in love with rock ‘n roll. Segall is snotty, he’s in love, he’s fucked up, he’s pissed off, he’s bored, and he’s gonna write some damn good songs about it. Plus how can you not to fall for a record that’s got lines like “Won’t you take me to the hill / Put me in your Coupe de Ville / And tell me that you love me still. / We could get out of here…” coupled with salt-of-the-earth production and instrumentals from a musician who obviously cares so deeply not just about all the music that’s come before him, but more importantly everything he’s putting to tape? Goodbye Bread may not change the face of music, cause, y’know, it’s only rock ‘n roll. But it’s damn hard not to like it.