The Upshot: A double shot of boogie chillin’ tunes for chill people who like to boogie.
BY BRIAN MOCK
First up, the “boogie” end of the pendulum. If you’ve lost count of how many albums Mr. Ty Segall has released in the last decade, you’d be forgiven. Under his own name, the number is now 11, at the very least. But counting the collaborations he’s done with pals like Tim Presley (White Fence) and Mikal Cronin, plus his own singles, compilations, and EPs, let alone albums with his other bands Fuzz and the Goggs, it’s more like three times that number. Easy. The man is nothing if not prolific.
Ty seems to be compulsively obsessed with tapping into the energy, hooks, and swing of the Kinks, Bowie, and T. Rex, and could be lumped in with other psychedelic garage bands. But Ty’s no follower or tribute artist (however great his Ty Rex cover EPs are); he’s the real deal. Freedom’s Goblin, his latest LP (released January 26), is another excellent addition to anyone’s Ty Segall collection. Essentially his “White Album”, it may also be the perfect record for novices and veteran fans, alike. This is album that showcases a little of everything the man does well. One of the most important things Segall has done to set himself apart from his peers, is to continually take risks. Yes, the aesthetic and instrumentational approach to his records can be casually lumped in under the “psych-garage” umbrella; but that ultimately sells him short. On every record since 2011’s Goodbye Bread, Segall has been slowly but surely expanding out in various directions, exploring the possibilities of sounds and approaches to his songs and songwriting craft. Freedom’s Goblin makes the dividends of his exploration that have paid off all too evident.
Now on the “chill” end, where we find one Mike Donovan. He’s been quietly building up quite the discography since 2004 with Sic Alps, then Peacers, and two solo LPs as plain ol’ Mike Donovan. Contrary to the Ty Segall approach, Mr. Donovan has essentially one approach: that of the lo-fi dreamy semi-acoustic psych-pop ditty. Through his tenure with Sic Alps (a band he fronted, which occasionally included Mr. Segall—man, this is getting incestuous, right?) this approach worked quite well and fresh over several LPs. With new band Peacers, and now his two solo—mostly acoustic, mostly unaccompanied—LPs (the most recent being How To Get Your Record Played in Shops, released April 20), the returns are decidedly diminished, as one would expect. We can only assume that Donovan just digs the foggy haze of his chilled-out sound—two exceptions being the decidedly Beatles-y “Spiral Tee Shirt” and album closer “Fox News Coverage ’68”—but it’s only natural at some point to ask the question “Why not expand out and experiment with different approaches, players, sounds, instruments, etc.?”. Only Mr. Donovan knows the answer to that. In the meantime, pick up his new LP (or any of his previous records) and decide for yourself if you’re chill enough for the Donovan vibe.
Ty Segall and Mike Donovan are rooted in the garage, psych aesthetic of so many bands from the Bay Area, many of which have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years, and which is celebrated by labels such as Burger and others. While Segall has clearly blasted out of that pigeon hole and transcended the aesthetic in search of more substance, Donovan seems content to continue cranking out his own brand of lo-fi foggy fuzz. Boogie and chillin’, indeed!