Ty Segall : Freedom’s Goblin

Ty Segall is not the type of guy to sit on his laurels. He doesn’t put out an album and then sit, lay back and just coast on good reviews for awhile. It seems that usually by the time he puts a record out he’s already onto the next record, project, music obsession, etc. For those that have been on the Segall train since the beginning that’s an exciting prospect(and an expensive one.) But for the passive listener finding the right place to start with Segall can be daunting. Each record seems to be made by a slightly different version of the man. “Last go round Segall was all about the Beatles and Fairport Convention, but this time around he’s all about Sabbath and the Stooges.” Again, if you like these 90 degree turns you’re in for a treat.

Over the last few years Ty has been veering into wilder territories. Manipulator, Emotional Mugger, and Ty Segall were all wildly unique from another, with Emotional Mugger being an outlier of bizarro weirdness the likes Captain Beefheart would tip his hat to(check out some live clips with Ty in the baby mask.) Well just shy of a year from when Segall released Ty Segall, he’s back with his second double LP(the first being the solid Manipulator) called Freedom’s Goblin. You’ve got a lot of the usual here with fuzzed-out guitars, big drums, and Segall writing catchy jams one after another. This time around he’s mining more 70s funk and even the Stones’ Exile On Main Street. Where Manipulator felt like a psychedelically woven-together concept, Freedom’s Goblin is more just a patchwork of horn-fueled jams that never quite mesh completely to my ears. It’s still pretty fun, nonetheless.

“Fanny Dog” Is the first thing we hear and it lays down some serious electro-funk rock and roll. Brass blast and electric piano sprinkles the background with Nicky Hopkins-like magic. It’s a big blast of classic rock. “Rain” sounds like a New Orleans funeral procession as conceived by Queen. That’s followed by the excellent Hot Chocolate cover “Every 1’s A Winner”. This is an all-out banger. It’s like Segall was meant to cover this his whole life. He proved he was worthy of the funk crown on Manipulator and lives up to that groovy promise on this track. “Despoiler Of Cadaver” is a slice of disco weirdness, almost veering into a mix of Faith No More and Of Montreal with a touch of Blondie. “When Mommy Kills You” is a blast of fuzzed-out weirdness. Big glam harmonies mixed with punk rock abandon(and even a touch of Supergrass thrown in.) “My Lady’s On Fire” is an acoustic-driven ballad with plunky electric piano, some tight drumming and horns that takes this track into Dan’s “Dirty Work” territory.

And we’re only a third of the way thru.

What else do we have? “Alta” is a big rocker, complete with fuzzy riffs and big melodies. “Meaning” lays on the cowbell and grooves pretty thick before going all molten lava punk stomp that is all the more effective with Segall’s wife Denée Segall laying down some vicious vocals(this one’s a highlight, guys.) Then we get back into balladeering with “Cry Cry Cry”, a mix of George Harrison and the Raspberries. “Shoot You Up” is sleazy 70s glam, and “The Last Waltz” is a wonky alternate universe 3/4 bizarro stomp. Imagine Three Dog Night melting into a black hole while still attempting to entertain. That’s what this sounds like.

Listen, Ty Segall borders on musical savant territory. There doesn’t seem to be much the guy can’t do, play, write, and bring to fruition on his albums. He surrounds himself with amazing players that are excellent songwriters in their own right, but are willing to put their own art off to the side in order to play with him. Freedom’s Goblin is yet another run of solid tunes that Ty Segall seemed to just pull out of the ether. This time around he’s fascinated with horns and funk with a smattering of weirdness throughout. At times precise and at times unhinged and scattershot, it’s a mostly engaging listen with a few true moments of greatness. Within Freedom’s Goblin‘s 75 minutes, there’s a truly classic 50 minute album.

7.3 out of 10

No Age : Snares Like A Haircut

Randy Randall and Dean Spunt have always come across as a couple art house punks with a hell of a lot of conviction. This Los Angeles noise/art/punk/rock duo known as No Age have never sounded like they’re particularly adept at their instruments, at least at the beginning. They came across as a couple sweaty punks pushing some higher, deeply buried agenda underneath the grime and grit of a lo-fi noise band that was equally influenced by Sonic Youth’s EVOL and pop art heroes like Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. With each successive release their sound got tighter and less far flung. Weirdo Rippers(2007) begat Nouns(2008) which begat Everything In Between(2010). With Everything In Between No Age seemed to have hit the height of their powers, mixing their lo-fidelity vibe with pop hooks for miles nearly perfectly. It seemed that with 2013s An Object No Age felt the need to mix the art world with the music world and the results were mixed. Randall and Spunt, besides playing art rock in No Age, worked with artists and filmmakers in various art installations and live-scoring films. They physically created, printed, packaged, and manufactured 10,000 units of the record themselves, making the whole album a DIY passion project. While the record came and went, it’s not without its moments of greatness.

No Age have returned to record making after nearly 4 1/2 years. They left Sub Pop Records for Chicago’s Drag City and bestow upon our ears Snares Like A Haircut. The album is a return to form. It’s a shot of disgruntled pop that carries a certain New York art scene feel while still permeating with plenty of pop hooks and free-wheeling punk abandon. It tows the line between statement and pure feel.

This record feels epic at it’s nearly 40-minute run time, as opposed to No Age’s usual 28 or 29 minutes, we’re in and out modus operandi. And when you open a record with a track like “Cruise Control” you’re looking to get attention. The track is an all out barn burner, throwing everything great about No Age up front and center. There’s a dreamy quality as well. There’s something that lingers just in the background that elevates the track from a blast of noise pop to something ethereal. “Stuck In The Changer” continues that ethereal vibe, touting an almost Cure feel. There’s a real old school, early 80s 4AD/Sire sound going on here and I like it. “Drippy” is pure pop confection wearing a suit of post-punk durability. You’ll gladly take a kick in the gut from No Age as they shove this in your ears.

Randall and Spunt still fit in some art rock tendencies, especially in the album closer “Primitive Plus” and the fuzzed-out noise bomb “Soft Collar Fad”. “Third Grade Rave” is awash in feedback and psychedelic noise, making No Age sound like Cocteau Twins being devoured simultaneously by a Big Muff and a black hole. Title track “Snares Like A Haircut” is a dreamy instrumental that sounds as if Brian Eno manned the boards while No Age got crazy with the guitar pedals a bit. But even when they’re pushing the envelope regarding their own sound Randy Randall and Dean Spunt somehow turn intellectual intentions into something like transcendence. “Squashed” feels like a next level work here. It’s Bowie ‘Berlin Trilogy’ vibe and laid back indifference should be a jumping off point for where No Age go next. Could be the best thing they’ve done.

Snares Like A Haircut has No Age tightening up the sound and honing their studio sonic explorations into an effective weapon. They still put their art world aspirations into the songs, but in a way that serves the song and not just some kind of steely, cubist ideal. Randall and Spunt have made their best record yet.

Snares Like A Haircut will be released 1/26/18 on Drag City Records.

8.3 out of 10




Wand : Plum

Going into Wand’s Plum I was expecting a bit of the usual Ty Segall-inspired garage noise, much like what was on the three previous records(Ganglion Reef, Golem, 1000 Days.) Playing with both Segall and Mikal Cronin, Hanson does have a little of both hard-wired into his musical DNA. While there are moments where the weirdness of Emotional Mugger and harsh feedback of Twins rears its noisy head, Plum sees Corey Hanson and company attempting to make a sound all their own. Mixing 60s garage with a more pop flexibility this is a record that stands as its own beast altogether.

After a little noise, “Plum” opens the record with a jaunty piano and Hanson sounding like Thom Yorke doing his best Ty Segall while letting his pop side show. It’s a catchy track that seems to let some quirky tendencies show mid way thru with some grating feedback. The background vocals come in and I’m reminded of the great pop band The Owls from Minneapolis. Next up is the guitar-heavy “Bee Karma”. The guitar riff almost brings to mind 90s alternative figureheads Stone Temple Pilots and elements of Radiohead when they used to write catchy guitar stuff. “White Cat” is all post-punk menace as the guitars stutter in staccato shots as synths give it a new wave vibe. The drums are swift and the track has an almost progressive vibe to it. “The Trap” is the track where the dust settles and things become a little more tranquil. It sounds like something Hanson’s buddy Mikal Cronin might’ve written. It’s a pretty song, truly. “Ginger” is a quiet little guitar instrumental track with appropriate noodling and ambiance that gives the impression it was a moment caught in-between takes.

The last two tracks are the longest. “Blue Cloud” runs close to 8 minutes and comes together with guitar, piano, drums and bass. It sounds like Friend Opportunity-era Deerhoof with a jaunty togetherness. There’s elements of Allman Bros, Wilco, and even early Neil Young. It’s a great track that leads into melancholy and soul-driven “Driving”. Here’s where Wand distinguishes themselves from the cult of Ty Segall. They don’t sound like an arm of the Segall garage rock consortium more than a band putting their own stamp on the tried and true tradition of that thing we call rock and roll.

Plum shows Cory Hanson, Lee Landey, Evan Burrows, Robbie Cody, and Sofia Arreguin writing a new story for Wand. It’s a varied story where the world is at their disposal, and where they’re limited only by their own musical expectations.

7. 8 out of 10

Ty Segall Drops “Alta” And The World Thanks Him

Photo by Kyle Thomas

Okay, so maybe the whole world didn’t come together and thank the resident garage rock God for dropping a new tune. In fact, I think it was an equal split between guffaws with jaws dropping and “Who?” with a side of “Meh.” For those not in the latter camp, this is indeed good news.

“Alta” is a track Segall and his Freedom Band, which includes Emmett Kelly (guitar, vocals), Mikal Cronin (bass, vocals), Charles Moothart (drums) and Ben Boye (keyboards), have been playing live over the last year of shows and finally committed to tape back in the spring with Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. According to Drag City, here’s what the track is about:

 It’s a nature jam as well – basically a “fuck-the-last-500-years” jam, which shows just how far back Ty‘s willing to go to get really back to nature. It’s a love song to the natural state of hometown grounds – and to convey the feelings, a wistful electric piano lick is ridden out on some crazy guitar horses and Ty’s heartstruck vocal.

The electric piano does add a bit of whimsy to the usual Segall crunch, and this song does indeed crunch. After that initial intro the band kicks in like a caffeine drip mainlined into a vein and they swing and sway like Crazy Horse in their prime. If you’re familiar with the Ty Segall formula, this song will feel like putting on that old, scruffy sweater you love so much on the first chilly fall day. Warm and fuzzies.

I’m slowly coming around to Segall. I never thought much of the lad in the early days, but in 2014 after hearing an interview he did with Marc Maron I had a change of heart. I bought Manipulator and things changed from there. Twins was next and that blew my mind. I may not fall for everything, but I’m definitely in the Segall camp now. “Alta” is a reminder why that is.

Ty Segall : Ty Segall

You pretty much know what to expect when jumping into Ty Segall’s musical world. You should, as he creates these worlds on a prettytysegall_dc658_minikylethomas_sq-516f76bee04332f3252324d8d782a2aa0ee5c2be-s900-c85 steady basis. Whether it’s his own albums or with projects he started with pals like Mikal Cronin and Charlie Moothart, Segall is in constant creative cycles. A year ago Segall dropped Emotional Mugger, a flat out bonkers rock album that was filled with both his signature guitar growls and a steady stream of arty weirdness. With his newest endeavor titled simply Ty Segall, Ty leaves the weirdness at the studio door and just writes some clear-eyed rock and roll goodness. This is classic Ty Segall.

I’m going to start with the third song in as it’s the anomaly this album cycle. “Warm Hands(Freedom Returned)” is a balls out grenade of a song, shooting guitar jabs and metal riffs like shrapnel. It’s over ten minutes of cow bell, time signature changes, and almost progressive rock moves that makes good use of fuzz boxes and an almost Stooges vibe with some doom-y metal overtones. Midway through the song gets some wurlitzer organ thrown in that makes you feel like you just walked into a Doors recording session circa 1969. Not too many people can jump the tracks as well as Ty Segall. He’s made an art out of “going for it”. He goes for it here. Does he get it? That’s up to you(he gets it, man. he gets it.)

So back to the beginning, “Break A Guitar” is full on fuzzy garage rock. Think Detroit, 1968. Think bleeding eardrums and split fingertips. Think glitter bombs and Orange amps on fire. You get the picture. “Freedom” is groovy fuzz bass, tribal beats, and an undercurrent of psychedelic groove that gets you right in your gut. “Talkin'” is a twangy barroom slow dance number. Shuffle beat, piano crawl, and some sweetly strummed acoustic. This is as Stones-y as Segall has gotten. It’s a hat that fits him quite well, and one he should wear more often. Who’s “Mr. K”? I don’t know, but Segall thanks him on the pedal to the metal barn burner “Thank You Mr. K”. It’s classic Segall weirdness mixed with some heavy melody punk rock. “Orange Color Queen” is an acoustic-driven track that flows beautifully, like T.Rex guesting on a White Album track. “Papers” is an oddly catchy song, pushed along by piano and some great vocal melodies. It’s an endearingly odd song. Maybe some Emotional Mugger ideas that got the revamp for the new album’s vibe? Possibly.

Ty Segall isn’t a grand statement like Manipulator, or the melt-your-face masterpiece that was Twins. It is, however, Ty Segall in master songwriter mode. He seems to have taken the complexity of his last two albums and combined them into a tight shot of grand fuzzed-out garage/pop rock, with some newer shades of vulnerability thrown in. Ty Segall will get you where you need to go, and then some.

8.1 out of 10


Axis: Sova : Motor Earth

Before hearing Axis: Sova’s newest album called Motor Earth I had no idea who he was. Yes, Axis: Sova is a he. That’s the name Chicago guitarist Brett Sova goes byaxis when creating grainy garage rock albums. If you’re at all familiar with DIY, scuzzy rock gods like Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Kelley Stoltz, and the late Jay Reatard, then you already have an idea of what Sova is up to. He’s not out to win you over with ballads or retro electronic music. Sova is out to melt frontal lobes with serious guitar riffage, the kind you heard blasting through speakers as Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum spun on the turntable. Imagine The Jimi Hendrix Experience as a punk band and you’re in the right mindset as you start up Motor Earth.

There’s nothing hi fidelity about Axis: Sova, and that’s quite alright. A song like “Love Identity” just wouldn’t carry the water it does garbled and hissy if it was crisp and clear. There’s an aged quality to its sped-up boogie, as if you came across some mildewed album tucked away in the attic of the house you just bought. Putting it on the turntable you can’t tell if it’s from 2016 or 1969. Brett Sova makes it clear in this opening salvo that what’s important here is the guitar. His fluid jamming is tantamount throughout the eight and a half minute run time. Just crack open another Red Stripe, light another Camel, and let the music be your guide. “(Like An) Intruder” is four on the floor rock and roll. It’s like T.Rex covering Joy Division’s “Interzone”. “Sanity Range” has a 70s strut to it, with an almost early Aerosmith vibe but with more of a punk attitude. “Unraveling” has a psychedelic sprawl to it as Sova’s guitar contorts and screeches through stomp boxes and an almost post-punk dirge. New York’s White Hills comes to mind as I let this track blow over me like some post-apocalyptic cloud. “Violent Yellow” sounds as if KISS and Hawkwind somehow morphed into a rock and roll thing-that-should-not-be. “Emoticog” mixes and matches post-punk urgency with a jaunty space blues vibe. “Routine Machine” ends the album with a mix of Blue Oyster Cult stomp and classic garage rock middle finger wagging.

After listening to Axis: Sova’s Motor Earth a few times I’m definitely glad to know who he is now. A Midwestern noisemaker that reminds me of a lot of bands I love(an Axis: Sova/White Hills bill would be pretty amazing.) But more than anything his inspirations don’t get in the way of hearing a singular artist. Guitar freakouts, punk attitude, and a spirit of epic garage jams are all over Motor Earth. Put this in your ears as soon as you can.

Album is out October 14th, 2016 via Drag City.

7.7 out of 10


Purling Hiss : High Bias

Purling Hiss are a band that can’t really be labeled. As soon as you think you know who they are the sound changes. Mike Polizze and his Purling Hiss project began aspurlingan experimental outlet for him to record his white noise and fuzz-drenched solo songs, but it turned into more than that. Comparisons to Dinosaur Jr and fIREHOSE weren’t unfounded, but pigeonholing the Philly native as an 80s and 90s indie rock revivalist wasn’t what Polizze had in mind. With 2013s Water On Mars, Purling Hiss blew the speakers with album opener “Lolita”, a frontal lobe-melting scorcher that sounded like Nirvana’s In Utero re-imagined as a scuzz rock masterpiece. From there though, the album skated from sound to sound. In 2014 Polizze followed up Water On Mars with the folksy Weirdon. If you thought you had Purling Hiss pegged, you were dead wrong, and Mike Polizze was happy to point that out song after song.

Well Purling Hiss are back with High Bias, probably their most consistent record to date. It’s a punky, power chord-fueled affair that balances between unabashed, upbeat rock and roll and late-70s hardcore punk workouts that while differ in attitude, always seem to follow the same rock and roll spirit.

“Fever” is a balls out rock and roll barn burner and a hell of an opening salvo. It’s as if T.Rex and the Ramones mind melded somewhere between “Jeepster” and “Judy Is A Punk”. No saccharine or sentiment, just sweat and buzzing amps. “3000 AD” sounds like a lost Cult track with bits of Screaming Trees thrown in for good measure, while “Notion Sickness” has a Dead Kennedys vibe in both the punk rock squall and Polizze’ Jello Biafra-affected vocals. “Follow You Around” is an all-out early 90s indie rock tune, complete with Lemonheads-like vocals and a Dino Jr lean in the guitar jangle.

Mike Polizze makes no qualms about his love of those early 90s indie rock inspirations and you can certainly hear ’em in his tunes. But he’s also enough of an individual and musical voice that he doesn’t need to recreate Lollapalooza ’93 on every song. Case in point, “Teddy’s Servo Motors”. It’s a nearly 7-minute post-punk banger that has as much in common with Polvo as it does METZ. This is what makes Purling Hiss such an exciting band and what makes Mike Polizze an engaging songwriter, singer, and guitarist. I think Polizze could shred on every song if he wanted to, but instead he pushes his guitar prowess into repetition and monster riffs. “Get Your Way” sounds like Jesus and Mary Chain covering the Beach Boys’ “Do It Again”, while “Pulsations” is another post-punk staccato attack. “Everybody In The USA” is an 11-minute psychedelic trip that goes from Mudhoney’s “Mudslide” to Dead Kennedys’ “California Uber Alles” and back again. It may run a few minutes too long, but Purling Hiss don’t really care. And in the end, neither should I.

Purling Hiss’ High Bias shows Mike Polizze in a fuzzed-out rock and roll mood with little letting up throughout the album’s 9-ear shattering tracks. Amidst a sea of faux rock and roll bands and over-produced, plastic artists it’s refreshing to have a new Purling Hiss record. Something that has feeling. Something that feels alive with blemishes, scars, faults, and jagged edges that’ll cut you if you’re not careful. Makes me want to sew some patches on my jean jacket, put on some hi-tops, and turn my amp up to 11 in the garage.

High Bias is out 10/14/16 via Drag City.

8.0 out of 10