Review: Ty Segall Thrives on His Lack of Self-Editing Once Again on Fuzz’s ‘II’
Release Date: October 23, 2015
Label: In the Red
Ty Segall isn’t yet as prolific as Robert Pollard or Ryan Adams, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t trying his damnedest to reach their collective level of (over)productivity. Since 2008, his solo output alone encompasses seven full-length albums and in excess of 30 singles, EPs and miscellaneous live or split records. Factor in his collaborations with Sic Alps, White Fence and Mikal Cronin, as well as limited-run releases, and it’s clear that the 28-year-old’s catalog is calibrated to give completists fits.
In the last three years, however, Segall has shown signs of increased musical focus — specifically in how he’s poured significant effort into drumming and singing for Fuzz, his heavy-rock power trio with guitarist/vocalist Charles Moothart and bassist/vocalist Chad Ubovich. The group has released only four seven-inches, a live EP and a full-length prior to the new II, their sophomore effort (and aptly, also a double album).
This concentration pays off throughout the grungily cohesive record, which sounds like the ideal soundtrack for Friday night bong rips and underage drinking circa 1974: Sludgy grooves abound, with snarling guitars ripped apart by overloaded surge-protector distortion, and absurdity-fried lyrics (sample: “Burnt hillside / Sun soot fills my eyes / I shun their grip on time / Loose cannon backing crime”). “Bringer of Light” and “Pipe” are heavily indebted to Black Sabbath’s scuzzy metal and Ozzy Osbourne’s paranoid vocal delivery, while there are also moments of glammed-out stoner rock (“Burning Wreath,” the Bowie-esque alien smolder “Say Hello”), metallic punk (“Red Flag”) and even cracked blues (“Rat Race,” which boasts an equally grimy synthesizer melody).
Naturally, guitarist Moothart carries the load on II, whether it’s his bubbling-tar fretwork on “Pollinate” or the Deep Purple-recalling squalls he coaxes out on the bruising highlight “Time Collapse Pt. II / The 7th Terror.” As with Jack White’s surprisingly deft tenure as the Dead Weather’s sticksman, Segall’s an agile drummer who handles the record’s zoned-out grooves without letting the songs drag. And II isn’t all aggressive classic rock bombast: The multi-part harmonies of “Silent Sits the Dust Bowl” glint with devilish glee, while “Let It Live” makes room for softer psychedelic harmonies and Nuggets riffs.
Still, if there’s a quibble with II, it’s that like most doubles, it would be more effective as a single disc. The middle of the record especially becomes a slog, in part due to the monotony of the lugubrious grooves and gnarled guitar heroics; II turns into background noise rather than something arresting. Things pick up near the end, courtesy of the speed-goth-garage instrumental “Sleestak” and the haywire power-pop surge “New Flesh,” but II ultimately closes with another tough listen, the occasionally engaging but mostly inessential 14-minute title instrumental. As with Pollard and Adams, Segall’s restless creativity and reverence for musical history are certainly two of his best qualities. Once he truly sharpens his self-editing skills, he’ll be unstoppable.