Ty Segall took the word “solo” very literally when he made his first solo album. He recorded the self-titled 2008 LP as a one-man band — just him, a guitar, and some makeshift percussion. This setup yielded an album of screeching, stomping, blown out, loud rock ’n’ roll, and behind the lo-fi assault were some classic hooks (“The Drag,” for example, is formatted just like an early-’60s instructional dance song, a la “The Twist”).
Since that solo album, the Bay Area garage hero has creeped towards subtlety. 2009′s Lemons featured songs that were slower and quieter. Then 2010′s Melted had a lead single driven by acoustic guitar. And for last year’s Goodbye Bread, Segall signed to Drag City, the label home of Joanna Newsom, Bill Callahan, and Will Oldham. Sure enough, despite some louder moments, he leaned closer to the aesthetic of his labelmates, even more than he did on his self-titled debut. Still, all of his LPs have one thing in common — Segall recorded them largely by himself (either in one-man band mode or him overdubbing several instruments).
Despite Goodbye Bread’s softer moments, Segall still rampaged on stage with his full band — bassist and vocalist Mikal Cronin, guitarist Charlie Mootheart, and drummer Emily Rose Epstein. The Ty Segall Band, as they’re called, transferred that energy and bite over to their ripping, driving, heshers-and-hardcore album Slaughterhouse, out now on In the Red.
As its title suggests,Slaughterhouse wastes no time on contemplation or quiet. The title track buzzes and shrieks over its 90 seconds. And the band barks, growls, and bulldozes through the Fabs’ ‘60s psych pop number “That’s the Bag I’m In.” Pretty much every song is loud, fast, aggressive, and fuzzed out, and pretty much every song rules.
It takes more than just aggression and volume to take an album from “good” to “great.” But the band doesn’t go slow or still; they do, however, inject near-saccharine vocal melodies into the album’s loud, fast onslaught. Right before “I Bought My Eyes” rips into a frenzied series of power chords, the song is buoyed by a cooing Mikal Cronin falsetto. “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart” leads with a propulsive guitar hook, but again, Cronin and Segall trade vocals on a melody that’s much closer to pop beauty than punk vitriol. Even “Fuzz War,” the droning 10-minute instrumental closer, studies texture and atmosphere in fascinating (if perhaps occasionally unintentional) ways.
It’d be easy to look at Slaughterhouse as Segall devolving from “serious songwriter LP” to “noisy hellish rock ’n’ roll album,” but that’s not fair. From his covers (in addition to the Fabs, he takes on Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy”), it’s clear that he’s a crate digger. His recent collaboration with White Fence (the ‘60s psych pop nodding album Hair) shows that he’s a musical tourist. Slaughterhouse showcases just one of his sonic inclinations, born of his more aggressive musical interests. And thank god Segall and co. indulged their inner metal/hardcore/punk apostle on these 11 songs; slow, psychedelic, songwriter Segall is great, but never as through-and-through unhinged, riveting, and compulsively listenable as he is on Slaughterhouse. And really, it seems like most of the album’s power originates with his band’s go-to kinetic energy. Take the end of the album, where the band delivers a sped-up, roaring rendition of “Oh Mary,” originally featured on Segall’s one-man band debut. It’s another 90-second garage gem, and it reminds you that while Segall wears the singer-songwriter hat well these days, he’s just as likely to rip it off his head at any moment.
Slaughterhouse is out now via In The Red.