Words by Andrew R. Fetter
Andrew Fetter has been writing about music for over the last decade and playing in bands for even longer. His latest endeavor is the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which airs Tuesdays from 4:30-5:30pm ET on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis. On it he covers his personal collection and influences of psych rock from over the last half century, starting with early influences and reaching to it’s modern incarnations. Past episodes are archived online.
There are many artists within the psych rock world that could easily be described as “prolific” or “genius”. Usually that’s paired with their ability/willingness to push the boundaries of the genre (if they those boundaries even exist) It’s almost a cliche, but cliches are often labeled as such because there is a great deal of truth to them. In the modern era of the genre, one such name that gets tossed around (and rightfully so) is Ty Segall. He’s successfully kept both feet in the worlds of garage rock and psychedelic music with such ease and, at only 32 years old, has made significant contributions to both genres. Ty has never been one to repeat himself. You could almost call him a chameleon of the psych rock world. He blends and changes his appearance (both sonically visually if you follow his solo work as well as the many other musical projects he is a part of). At the same those changes have the opposite effect of what a chameleon does. Instead of blending into his surroundings, what he creates stands out all the more and draws your attention to him immediately.
The chameleon aspect of Ty’s music is apparent in even just a small sampling of his work, let alone his entire discography (and this includes other projects he’s been involved with: from the heavily 70s psychedelic (almost classic rock) inspired project Fuzz and the heavier punk soaked project GøGGS). In 2012, he gave us the loud and noisy Slaughterhouse and Twins, followed in 2013 by the calm mostly acoustic Sleeper and Fuzz’s self-titled debut, and then the melodic psych album Manipulator in 2014. And yet if you listen to those albums sequentially, they transition from one to the next perfectly.
The first week of August will see Ty release First Taste, his 13th proper studio album under his own name (because trying to tally EVERYTHING he’s done would be a bit exhausting). The first released song, “Taste”, gives some indication of where the music is heading. In many ways it’s an appropriate followup to the more groovy, (dare I say funky? Yes I do), feel of 2018’s Freedom’s Goblin. And yet, “Taste” does hint at previous records too. The fuzzy synths bring to mind 2016’s Emotional Mugger, the vocal harmonies are very reminiscent of Manipulator. And keep in mind, this is based on one song off the album. Granted the albums take on persona that permeates albums as a whole. But, he’s also known to surprise the listeners. Even long time fans have walked away from new albums and wondered not only what the fuck they just heard, but what could Ty possibly do next?
Then, there’s the video for “Taste” Yeah, it’s something. Ty’s certainly never been hesitant to do weird shit visually that matches perfectly with the music. But this video is on a whole other level of oddity. It’s downright disturbing. But in such an entertaining way. We see a menacing looking Ty walking the streets and coming up to different members of the group of “The Freedom Band,” the moniker given to his touring band. You see him eyeing various articles of clothing each member is wearing, followed by him killing each member in fairly gruesome ways in order to collect said clothing. There’s more to the story once the ensemble is complete, but it’s better seen for your own benefit. Suffice to say the video ends with a disclaimer: “All members of The Freedom Band were murdered during the making of this video. Except for Ben” (referring to keyboardist Ben Boye). I was left wondering “is this the final album with the Freedom Band?” Or possibly is the video’s story a metaphor for how much the members contribute to the overall finished product of Ty’s music? It’s possible I’m entering the “writer’s mindset” and overthinking it all and it was just a fun idea he had. But with all the grandiose aspects of his art, it just can’t be that easy, can it?
Recent online press indicates that First Taste, is a completely new type of record for Ty. Lyrically it takes on a more introspective tone. The subject of his family is touched on with song titles “When I Met My Parents Part 1” and “Part 3”. If there’s a connection between the two, we’re just left to wonder what “Part 2” would contain and how it would fit into the supposed narrative. Instrumentally, there’s wider inclusion of instruments that one might not associate with Ty’s music: koto, recorder, harmonizer, mandolin and bouzouki, to name a few. Given Ty’s much revered and celebrated guitar abilities, his take on the more obscure stringed instruments will no doubt give the listeners a new appreciation for those abilities. This new album may not be a “first taste” of Ty’s music itself, but it might be the start of a new type of Ty record. I’m on board.