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SPIN Essentials

Ty Segall, ‘Twins’ (Drag City)

Ty Segall / Photo via Getty
SPIN Rating: 8 of 10
Release Date: October 09, 2012
Label: Drag City

Ty Segall works so fast, it’s a wonder he didn’t call this album Quintuplets, just for the challenge. As is, Twins stands on its own as a spectacular bit of grandstanding for the freakishly prolific San Francisco garage-rock mainstay. It’s his fourth full-length release of 2012 (including a collaboration with White Fence’s Tim Presley), and there’s every chance he’ll pop out a fifth sometime before Christmas. Pretty much a lead-pipe cinch that whatever else he drops this year will be really, really good, too.

It’s got rough edges aplenty, but Twins also sounds darn near polished enough to break Segall out of the “lo-fi” ghetto once and for all. It was only four years (and seemingly 127 albums) ago that he emerged from surf-punk trio the Traditional Fools with a solo act long on DIY primitivism, playing live shows using a percussion setup cobbled together with duct tape. He’s still playing virtually everything himself here, aided and abetted once again by recording cohort Eric “King Riff” Bauer. But the pieces fit together better than ever, and “less raw” certainly doesn’t mean “less cutting.” Segall starts out giving sly thanks for the miscreants we all are on “Thank God for the Sinners,” which would be delightful to fire up at a church cookout sometime; he wraps it up with “There Is No Tomorrow,” a call to seize the moment that’s both stirring and languid.

True to its title, Twins manages a pretty amazing balancing act in conjuring up a psych-rock sonic universe that is vast and epic, but also somehow short and sweet — impossibly far-removed, in a distant-galaxy sort of way, even as it’s right in your face. Clocking in at a brisk 36 minutes, the album’s 12 songs fly by. Segall is like ’80s-vintage Robyn Hitchcock with a side order of Nuggets and the volume cranked, his controls set for the heart of the sun by way of the MC5’s Detroit.

Speaking of dualities, “twee” and “crushing” co-exist effectively here, where sparkly jingle-jangle rubs up against jaw-dropping flip-outs, and the fun really starts when Segall lets the feedback fly. “You’re the Doctor” proceeds at a manic gallop recalling the Feelies circa Crazy Rhythms, all elbows and frenetic forward motion as Segall chants, “THERE’S A PROBLEM IN MY BRAIN” over and over. “Who Are You” rampages along with an off-kilter backbeat and a stinging psychedelic guitar lead that’s sharp as an icepick. And for contrast, that one yields to “Gold on the Shore,” an acoustic waltz stately and winsome enough for a freak-folk picnic.

The latter is one of several quite pretty songs here, but most of Twins hits a lot harder, sweet and sour in equal measure. “Handglams” harnesses walloping, feedback-laced power chords to the chorus, and it’s pulverizing enough to cause mosh-pit injury, but then there’s Segall in the background, adding sugary falsetto ooohs just to make sure the pain goes down in a so-good way. The whole thing’s admirably hooky throughout, especially glorious first single “The Hill,” which opens in a gauzy haze of a cappella vocals by Brigid Dawson (from Segall’s San Francisco peers Thee Oh Sees) and closes in a churning, pulsing rave-up that sounds like “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Only faster, always faster.

With few exceptions, the songs here sound like they’re in a hurry to get somewhere, and mostly they do (half of them in under three minutes). Tellingly, the longest song is called “Ghost,” which Segall slows down to a four-minute-plus dirge as he howls that he “don’t wanna be a ghost” over a mountainous fuzz-tone guitar riff. He sounds as if he’s just seen his own specter in the mirror, but no worries — records don’t get much more alive than this.