The C.I.A. : Surgery Channel

So Surgery Channel isn’t an album of the Central Intelligence Agency’s greatest hits, but rather this is yet another Ty Segall project. This one in-particular is a project that includes Segall, his wife Denée Segall, and Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly. The sound is primitive electronic with touches of post-punk and even riot grrrl in Denée’s delivery. Imagine a combination of Suicide, Bikini Kill, and PJ Harvey and you’re close to what the Segalls and Kelly are doing.

The band released their self-titled debut in 2018 to little fanfare, and then Ty moved onto 10 other things. That album felt pasted together with leftover pieces in the garage with some agitated electronic drums thrown in for good measure. Denée Segall sounded like an angry beatnik with a bone to pick with the world. On the band’s new album titled Surgery Channel, they go with the adage “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. The vibes are the same but the sound is slicker, and they still have a bone to pick with the world.

If you’re familiar with Ty’s project Wasted Shirt with Lightning Bolt drummer Brian Chippendale, then you’re going to feel right at home with Surgery Channel. Overblown guitars, frenetic rhythms, and songs shouted with indignation as opposed to sung with melody. The C.I.A. sound was revisited on Ty’s 2021 album Harmonizer, a kind of robotic, proto-electro punk album that was part glam and part android punk. Denée even showed up for the sleek and groovy “Feel Good”. The C.I.A. have returned and mean business.

“Introduction” is the static opening, building in chaotic anticipation before “Better” rushes in like an angry Devo. Denée Segall doesn’t sing as much as she croons in a eerie hush, which fluctuates from song to song building into freak outs when the song calls for it. “Impersonator” has an almost lusty groove, guitars sounding more like steam releasing from industrial pipes than garage rock tomes. Or maybe flatulent rhinos. “Bubble” brings to mind old QOTSA, before they discovered fashion and Josh Homme became an actual villain.

For those that heard The C.I.A.’s debut and thought, “meh”, Surgery Channel might just change your mind. It’s a tighter album with more focus on grooves and catchy riffs. And Denée Segall balances her moods equally between “come hither” and “Go to Hell” with frenetic ease.

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