As one of the few true post-grunge musicians who gets attention today, Segall delivers a great refreshing and invigorating down-to earth album with his powerful guitar and carefree passion.
Despite the album’s careless attitude and feel, attention to melody was much more diligent than it could have been, which gave heightened importance and power to the work. Basically every song, except for the 10-minute opus “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)”, had a simple verse-chorus form that was easy to anticipate. Using this form over and over again can really only work if the melody in the choruses are consistently catchy, interesting, and bring something greater to the table. This is exactly what Ty Segall did throughout the album. Each chorus was unique enough to sound recognizable and substantial, all with shapes that were incredibly pleasing. Some reached a level of intrigue that rock n’ roll has rarely reached for 20 years, such as in “Freedom” and “Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)”. Theses choruses really made the music come alive. The verses were typically not as driving or interesting melodically, with only a couple songs having verses that I wish lasted longer. What they ultimately did do was provide a good balance and contrast so that the chorus could really provide the lively spark, all while not taking away the edge that the music already had. Normally this can be done timbrally, just by adding more instruments to the texture, but it works out melodically here too. Overall, the melodies were simple, strong, well-paced, and fun.
Again, with the overall attitude of carelessness, the harmony didn’t have to be very nuanced or surprising in order to achieve a good inclusive sound. Reminiscent of Nirvana and great early 90’s grunge in general, though, Ty Segall went the extra mile to achieve full artistry. The addition so much complexity and twist to the harmonic structure was a risk that paid off enormously here. Surrounding the strong uses of I, bVII, and IV were some very well-placed borrowed chords that still gave the music a forward progression but made the journey more daring, which fits very well into the album’s gritty atmosphere. The aforementioned song “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” was especially excellent in providing a beautiful harmonic journey that involved a lot of surprise with sense. No song ever went too far on the complexity scale so that the true intent of the music was being masked or fabricated (as much of heavy metal does too often), but there was certainly no room for complacency. Aside from the first song, “Break a Guitar”, there really weren’t any drop-offs in harmonic quality throughout. These wonderfully well-worked and intense structures were just what this album needed.
Why is the electric guitar such a mesmerizing instrument? Aside from a few individual virtuosos throughout history, what do we know of its true power? It is one of the most popular instruments to use in modern day music, and it has tried to be effective in many different ways. From clean shimmering to slamming on power chords to insane tremolo picking, we have a lot of examples to find answers from. Ty Segall provides a great answer for me here. This album has some of the most effective electric guitar use that I have heard in recent years. As the main harmonic instrument, it never fails to deliver the harmonic progression in a very clear way, and yet it still sounds very raw and dynamic as if it could switch techniques and roles in a second, which it does on several occasions. The guitar doesn’t try to be anything more than what its amplifier makes it, and in that simplistic thrashing is where the true power lies. It breaks away into solos and melodic passages without a big fanfare, and keeps everything sounding fluid and full of motion. “Talkin’” was the only song out of the album that couldn’t quite deliver a strong guitar presence, being a little twang-ish and quiet. Also, the vocals were very well done, with great additional harmonies at opportune times and a solo voice that fully expressed true emotion. Although I did get more satisfaction out of the louder and more aggressive timbres on average, thanks in part to the underrated drums, the acoustic guitar also provided some nice slower breaks at times. “Take Care (To Come Your Hair)” had both of those sides, and is really a good example of everything a listener can want from this instrumentation. This album relied very heavily on guitar, and it’s hard for me to imagine a better way to use it without adding a Hendrix or a Page to the band.
While Ty Segall may not get the significant headlines or attention, he has made his rounds among music circles and has a recognizable name to many rock musicians and rock lovers. He is still very young and only began his solo career in 2008, but this is already his ninth studio album, which shows how endless his creativity seems to be. Indeed, while this album is quite consistent with what you might expect from garage rock revival, it is one of most successful in recent memory in achieving the sound and fervor. On deeper levels, this sort of creativity within a forgotten genre is on a level of brilliance that should get more listeners to pay attention. This certainly has promise to be Segall’s most successful album yet and one that helps to continually grow his fan base.
Note: I did not score the short “untitled” track at the end.
Final Score: 153/180