Steve Wilson. On music.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse (In the Red Records)

I’ll begin by warning mature readers of REVERBERATIONS: in the event you don’t have a sense of humor and adventure about noise and excess, advance to the previous review of Bobby Womack’s The Bravest Man in the Universe.

If you do, say hello to Ty.

If Goodbye Bread was Ty Segall’s orange sunshine voyage; Slaughterhouse is his STP crash. But enough about drugs.

This young Segall chap is prolific. Slaughterhouse is his fourth release since 2008’s Lemons (excluding side projects, a disc with White Fence, etc.), and far and away his, like, heaviest. The full credit is to the Ty Segall Band. The sunny-sour Chilton-isms of Bread were also, like his second solo effort Melted, a bit on the shambolic side. Segall’s pop sensibilities were rarely obscured, yet he seemed to insist on showing that he could pull a T. Rex or John Lennon solo turn, but couldn’t be bothered to tighten up his performances. Fortunately for Segall, those records were long on melody and charm, so whether his lackadaisical qualities were laziness or aesthetic didn’t matter so much.

But causal brilliance isn't what heavy rock is about. The Segall Band on Slaughterhouse is brutally tight. They hint at the Stooges Funhouse without having that band’s primitive funk moves, but they nail the acid-rock (God, what an idiotic term, but it seems to work) of other Detroit psych merchants like the Frost and SRC, and even New York’s Autosalvage.  Other reference points, maybe Hawkwind, and Blue Oyster Cult; of course Sabbath. But enough about drugs; I mean, stoner-rock bands.

In the maelstrom of the late Sixties and early Seventies there was an element of tragedy attached to music this damaged and brutal. If, as that Karl Marx fellow suggested, history appears "first as tragedy, then as farce," it's first hard not to see Slaughterhouse as farce.

But I figure that if times have changed that doesn't mean they've gotten any prettier, and besides, when made with such vigor music like this is even idiomatically compelling.

I don’t always, but in this case I’ll go track by track, partly because the pop to plunder quotient shifts consistently throughout Slaughterhouse. Things start with “Death.”  The song begins with pizzicato violins playing in close harmony. KIDDING. It starts with howling feedback and, uh, skronk. And it sounds pretty cool when you’re driving down the highway at midnight. “Death” sounds like the Thirteenth Floor Elevators without the jugs and theremins and with the guitars on Blue Cheer meets Sonic Youth mind meld.

“I Bought My Eyes” (even the title sounds kinda Roky-ish) has spooky harmonies, like some Left Banke from hell, or at least B.O.C.’s rehearsal space. Emily Rose Epstein’s drumming is equal parts drive and splatter, perfect for this music.  Segall and guitarist Charles Moothart go for shards and splinters, but harmonies, too.