Ty Segall Sticks to Formula Amidst Roaring Guitars

Ty Segall--Twins--Drag City--3 1/2 STARS

Courtesy Drag City

Who cares about innovation? Certainly not Ty Segall, if his latest album, “Twins,” is any indication. The swift 35-minute project starts and ends with a heavy dose of feedback and is filled in between with blaring garage rock that has the sound quality of an ’80s cassette tape. There is nothing original about the whiny guitars and furious cymbal crashes, but the talented Segall makes up for it with raw energy and simple, infectious songwriting. In the haze of every vaguely familiar riff and harmonized melody, there is little that sticks in the mind afterwards, but it’s sure as hell fun while it’s on.

“Twins” is the third album this year from the hard working Segall—he put out a collaborative album with White Fence in April and another one with his touring band in June. While other artists use their many side projects to experiment with instrumentation and songwriting, Segall has stuck to his guns: verse-chorus-verse earworms with distorted guitar riffs inserted at every possible opportunity. He wastes no time asserting his formula with “Twins’” opener, “Thank God for Sinners.” “I’m out on the streets, you know / I’m looking for you,” he drawls, and a clumsy drum fill launches him into the heavy groove. Thirty-five seconds into the album, we already have a huge, reverberating chorus; twenty seconds after that, we have our first dueling guitar solo. It’s all a little laughable, but also absurdly catchy.

Throughout the album, Segall continues to reaffirm his penchant for a garage-rock style that is low on substance but high on volume and enthusiasm. “You’re the Doctor” is a three-chord bruiser that crashes along at a furious tempo. Segall couldn’t be bothered to write a different melody for the verse and the chorus, so they’re exactly the same—on the chorus, he screams the Ramones-esque lyrics, “There’s a problem in my brain,” over and over again. On “Love Fuzz,” the eighth track, he approximates the riff from “Expecting” by the White Stripes, another modern-day garage-rock outfit. He doesn’t seem too apologetic, though, judging by the gleeful, stuttering guitar solo.

Segall isn’t a one-trick pony, though; he successfully incorporates pop elements to make the album varied. “The Hill,” the first single, begins with a chorus of female vocalists singing a dreamy harmony. Even after the squealing guitars enter, the vocalists hold their ground and provide a refreshing contrast to Segall’s hoarse shouting. Even more intriguing is “Gold On The Shore,” which can’t not be an homage to Seal’s classic “Kiss From a Rose.” The tempo and rhythmic feel are exactly the same, and sunny harmonies flow in and out above the nimble bass, just like in the original. The first few lines serve as further proof: “A kiss in the wind to my girl / This is the rose that I gave you before.” The R&B icon Seal might seem like a strange source of inspiration for a garage rocker, but at any rate, the song provides a tender moment to an otherwise bruising album and showcases Segall’s ear for melody.

Ultimately, Segall’s reliance on the ideas and styles of others before him is the album’s main weakness. There’s hardly a note on “Twins” that couldn’t have been on a lost Replacements album circa 1985. Given that there is no innovation or stylistic choice that marks the album as being from the 21st century, it’s likely that many punk and garage rock fans would rather simply return to the originals.

However, Segall doesn’t seem to care too much about how the record will fare in the future. He’s much more interested in milking every last screech out of his guitar and reveling in facing his axe to the amplifier to produce that fantastic, grating feedback that has delighted rockers in their basements for 40 years. Segall may not be trying too hard to pursue innovation on “Twins,” but there are far worse things than a talented musician having fun.

—Staff writer Andrew Chow can be reached at andrewchow@college.harvard.edu.

Tags