Garage rock artists like Ty Segall are essential to the mainstreaming of rock music. Everything about his music screams retrospective rock ‘n’ roll, while keeping the genre fresh through the use of heavy-handed distortion. Artists like Segall, through their indie-tinged take on rock, are the ones responsible for summer festival-goers head-banging their flower crowns off to massive pop tunes masked under guitar riffs and solos that bring out the rocker in anyone.
Ty Segall is exactly what you would expect from albums of this festival punk archetype — it’s a bright drunken haze of an album. The blurry black and white image on the cover speaks for itself: A dark image of a man who lacks any tangible features other than the curtain of hair covering his face. Even though the cover represents the genre, the album itself features tracks that produced poignant definition between the songs on the album. On his latest effort, Segall has expanded the dirtier lo-fi atmosphere of the oldies rock on 2015’s Ty Rex by utilizing incredibly well-written pop melodies, a common staple that has brought the garage rock niche popularity to the festival-going crowd.
Segall is never afraid to show off his talents. The man is incredibly adept at his craft, sprinkling lightning fast guitar melodies throughout the album that give it the rock credibility it needs to survive in the 21st century. Segall’s penchant for writing both vocal and guitar melodies keeps the album fresh, each song distinct from the next, despite the distortion that permeates his work.
The drunken, romantic aesthetic commonly found within the modernization of rock, a movement fronted by artists like Twin Peaks and Mac Demarco, is palpable on the album. With lyrics like, “Take my guitar / I’ll be at the bar,” and “I don’t want to call you baby,” Segall paints imagery of long-haired sad boys ruminating over love with a stiff drink in hand. It’s lovable, fun imagery that adds relatability to a genre that can otherwise feel removed.
Back-to-back tracks “Papers” and “Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)” are pleasantly light-hearted and cryptic to the point of goofiness, adding to the romance through their detail. Segall shows he’s capable of more than just the lo-fi rock ‘n’ roll we have come to expect from him. These floaty indie rock tracks give the album more depth than he’s accomplished on more recent releases, which tended to stick to his status-quo brand of punk. It makes for great effect before his goodbye — a lonely pair of chords on 12-second closer “Untitled.”
By getting in touch with his tender side, Segall has written a record that is not only ripe for throwing yourself around in a pit, but also includes moments for swaying along to the melody with breezy carelessness. “Talkin’” tones down the album, taking cues from music that almost feels like Beatles-era rock, while “Thank You Mr. K” brings it back to speed with rollicking piano added to the mix. It’s an effective play with varying tempo and volume, and the result is an unexpected but far-reaching album.
On his second self-titled record, Segall has taken the often two-dimensionality of garage rock and made it three-dimensional through modern twists that give it distinction from the typical hazy aesthetic of the genre. It’s far from a surprising or magnificent album, but Segall succeeds in taking on his genre of choice with a broader view. To put it bluntly, it’s damn good — full of wit and charm. Hiding beneath rough riffs, shrill solos and a somber cover, Ty Segall proves that its namesake isn’t as sad as he’d make you believe.