Ty Segall: First Taste review – rocking riddles from Californian polymath

(Drag City)
Distorted vocals, funky, jerky guitars, walls of drumming and banks of harmonies dissolve into sad pianos (sometimes) on Segall’s fantastic 13th solo effort

Over the last 11 years, Californian cult garage rocker Segall has released 13 solo albums, collaborated with Tim Presley on last year’s excellent Joy, played in countless short-lived bands and created a labyrinthine back catalogue that stretches from psychedelia to disco. The risk of pumping out ideas with such velocity is that it risks becoming like a musical version of the I’m Alan Partridge episode where the spoof TV host pitches ideas at a long-suffering programmer: “Inner City Sumo? How about Youth-Hostelling With Chris Eubank?” Somehow, Segall has avoided such a fate, and his 13th solo album pushes his sonic envelope ever further without many significant lapses in quality control.

Ty Segall: First Taste album artwork
Ty Segall: First Taste album artwork Photograph: PR Handout

It kicks off with the hurtling Taste, a warning about the consequences of personal choices over a grinding, driving riff. Thereafter, the dozen tracks career through funky drumming, jerky grooves, eerie noises, distorted vocals and instruments from harmonizer to bouzouki. Ice Plant beautifully combines Who-referencing lyrics (“Let your love rain down over me”) and banks of harmonies, before sliding into a hauntingly sad piano refrain. The Fall’s walls of drumming and psychedelic noise may or may not be named after Mark E Smith’s band, but the mantra-like, guttural, growled I Worship the Dog is certainly reminiscent of later Fall work.

Elsewhere, the jam-like When I Met My Parents (Part 1) tires of itself after 63 seconds and the acoustic tracks have a happier vibe, with shades of Donovan and T Rex. The album slowly emerges as a deliberately obtuse sonic puzzle, which contains Segall’s most personal thoughts on childhood, family and self. “I sing my songs so I am free-uh …” he sings, tellingly, and “My life is a mystery, I’d look inside but I can’t see.”

Gradually, the maze reveals its gems. Radio mashes up psych-pop and Maharishi-era Beatles. The difficult-but-extraordinary Self Esteem’s startling horn blasts arrive like bouts of mental disturbance. The closing Lone Cowboys, too, is lovely. Wistful “ooh la la’s” lead to a sublime, melancholy discourse on outsider loneliness that should, ironically, win him more new friends.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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