Ty Segall is an artist who has built his reputation on a tireless, at times dizzying work ethic. The 28 year California native released his debut album in 2008 and has been releasing nearly two albums a year since. Further, while his debut and earlier output was very much centered in basic, noisy garage punk, each release has brought an expansion on the sound and influence. The first major deviation in his catalogue came in 2010 with the release of Goodbye Bread, which favored a more laid-back, 60’s singer-songwriter vibe to the fury of the first three releases. The follow-up, Twins, continued with the traditional Nuggets-influenced garage sound of his earlier material, but began to incorporate influences from the 70’s such as T Rex and David Bowie. The influence of the 70’s was largely replaced in 2013 with the acoustic Love-influenced Sleeper, however it was back in a big way in 2014, with the release of the year’s best album, the sprawling double album Manipulator.
In addition to an expansive solo discography, Ty has an incredible collection of collaborative work which has followed a similar path musically. His collaborations with White Fence and Mikal Cronin acted as great companions to the solo material at the time, as they were grounded in either noisy garage (Mikal Cronin) or 60’s influenced psych rock (White Fence). His debut release with Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse, began a shift in his collaborative work however, as his traditional touring band were able to create one of the most volatile, demonic garage rock albums in recent memory. Further, Slaughterhouse was the first Ty collaboration to put a focus on the 70’s, as the group was able to effectively channel the raw intensity and power of Iggy Pop circa Fun House/Raw Power. The 70’s influence was even more apparent the following year as Ty switched his focus to drums, recruited long-time collaborator Charles Moothart and former Epsilons member Roland Cosio, to create an incredible collection of Black Sabbath infused proto-metal as Fuzz. Not only was Fuzz the heaviest and most aggressive album from Ty, it was the first to forgo his traditionally economic songs in favor of a more open-ended, sprawling, jam based sound. The success and intensity of the debut album has not surprisingly become a fan favourite amongst Ty-heads, therefore anticipation for another release from the proto-metal trio has been tough to contain. Luckily for fans of the debut, or Ty in general, the aptly titled II offers much of the same as the debut, but is more successful in its execution.
The similarities between the debut and II are readily apparent from opening track “Time Collapse pt. II/ The 7th Terror”, as once again the album starts with a spacey intro that gives way to an incredibly riff-heavy, rollicking stoner-rock jam. The intensity of the opener is matched a few times throughout the album, notably “Bringer of Light” and “Let It Live”, but the track continues Ty’s impeccable record at choosing opening tracks. “The 7th Terror” is also notable as it introduces the lone lineup change, with Meatbodies front man Chad Ubovich taking over on bass. The change is not surprising as Chad had been working as the group’s touring bassist for over a year. Chad’s impact is felt throughout the album, but more so on “Rat Race” and “Red Flag” which feature his excellent vocals and at times sound plucked directly from last year’s excellent self-titled debut from Meatbodies. However, apart from a few tracks, Ty is once again leading the vocal charge and delivers another inspired performance. Segall’s last three releases have all been quite subdued vocally, so the heavier aesthetic of the album allows for an aggression in his voice that has not been heard since Slaughterhouse. Further, II has far more ‘pop’ moments than the debut. Songs such as the tribal influenced “Say Hello” and glammy “Burning Wreath” contain incredibly catchy, classic Ty Segall hooks that would not sound of place on previous album.
In addition to the great vocal performances, Segall contributes a masterful performance on drums. His move to drums shares a lot in common with Jack White, as they both possess an incredibly animalistic, almost primitive style that acts as perfect companion to their guitar abilities. The comparisons between the two do not stop there either, as the artists share a similar musical story. They both started as drummers before switching to guitar and releasing a prodigious string of material, and finally falling back to their original instrument in a ‘super group’ of sorts.
Segall’s decision to play drums might leave some fans feeling betrayed or confused, especially considering his emerging guitar-god status. Luckily, Charles Moothart is a more than capable replacement. While Fuzz will always be billed as a Ty Segall led project, Charles Moothart is the real star of the album. Mootheart earned his reputation as an excellent guitarist with his work on Slaughterhouse and in Ty’s live show, yet he was almost always cast in Ty’s shadow. That is definitely not the case on this album however, as his guitar is at the forefront of nearly every song. “Let It Live” and epic 14 minute closing track “II” are definite standouts, but every song features incredibly heavy, sludgy and at times catchy riffs that really showcase his abilities as a guitarist. Further, the more open-ended song structure allow for more experimentation that would not be possible within the traditionally economic Ty Segall sound. In fact, the open-ended song structure is one of the album’s biggest strengths, as it never feels stale despite the double album runtime and somewhat limiting source material. Proto-metal can often come across as a fairly one-dimensional genre, as its focus on sludgy, heavy riffs can grow tiresome quickly. However, the trio is able to sidestep the criticism with their incredibly tight and well sequence compositions.
Proto-metal is a genre that can contain quite a few limitations. The sludgy, jam-based sound can easily come across as contrived or stale, especially without proper execution. On the flipside, if properly executed, it has the potential for an incredibly rewarding and heavy hitting album. Thankfully, Fuzz are a trio of some of the most accomplished musicians in a busy garage psych scene, which results in one of the most satisfying albums of the year. Similar to Wand’s 2015 Golem or Thee Oh Sees 2013 release Floating Coffin, II is an excellent example of how to properly execute a ‘heavy’ album while still maintaining the perfect amount of accessibility.