The Upshot: Collecting all of Segall’s Marc Bolan covers and touching upon both the hippie and glam phases of the T. Rex mainman, this colored-vinyl album has appeal for both Segal fans and Bolan devotees.
BY FRED MILLS
The uber-prolific Ty Segall caused a couple of limited edition stirs with his previous Record Store Day “Ty Rex” releases, a 2011 12” EP and a 2013 7” single that found him covering, you guessed it, T. Rex. Now arrives, as threatened, the full nine-song LP that includes those tracks plus the previously unreleased “20th Century Boy.” No less an authority than Britain’s The Guardian is proposing, via a gone-viral video, that Ty Rex is the one album you should hear this week, and while that may be overstating matters just a tad—apparently some folks aren’t particularly chuffed with it, such as this commenter at the Goner Records Facebook page who contends Segall “chose really underwhelming covers and performed them as such. Really boring, just… noisy, and I really like Ty’s original stuff! T.Rex is inherently sexy, and Ty didn’t pull that off”—the record sounds pretty decent to these ears and might even be a reasonable party-starter be you a Segall fan or a Marc Bolan nut like me.
Pressed on colored vinyl that, on my copy at least, is mostly clear with some hints of cloudy green swirls (it was advertised as being green wax, so it’s likely the press run contains infinite variations of clear and green), Ty Rex is also reportedly pretty limited, although not as much as the previous 12” and 7” that go for sizable sums now on eBay. The fact that Goner released it on Nov. 27, Black Friday, and that it does not presently appear at the Goner online store, may mean you’ll have to resort to the usual auction site trawling. (A quick look at Amazon.com indicates that neither the vinyl nor the CD is available directly from Amazon but only via a handful of other record stores’ sites—although Amazon is selling the digital album, and you can also stream it via Spotify. So it won’t be impossible to snag in one form or another.)
The aforementioned “20th Century Boy” in is one key reason to grab the album. It retains the original glammy vibe but then paints thick layers of grime on top of it until you’re awash in fuzzed-out distortion, a riot of sneering vocals, and a blazing conclusion that practically begs for an end-of-concert instrument demolition ritual from the Segall band.
“Buick Mackane,” from the classic The Slider album (which the Ty Rex rear sleeve art pays homage to) is another obvious high point, smartly recorded and brawny as it gets—no need to take my word for it, however, as you can check it out above. A fellow The Slider cut, namely “The Slider,” doesn’t fare as well as it’s just sludge for the sake of sludge’s sake.
One interesting thing about Ty Rex is how Segall nicely balances the more familiar glam/Seventies side of Bolan with the early folky-faerie side that characterized his Sixties output (as Tyrannosaurus Rex). In particular, 1968’s “Salamanda Propaganda” and 1969’s “Cat Black” hold up nicely, the former kind of woozily psychedelic, the latter a strummy folk strut. It’s “Elemental Child,” however, originally on 1970’s transitional LP A Beard Of Stars, that will simultaneously cause jaws to get dropped and heads to be scratched: the extended, suite-like number utilizes an echo-drenched production and a series of bizarre tape manipulations to great effect even as Segall is kicking out the jams via a twin guitar duel and some frankly indecipherable vocals. It’s not likely to be the song to convert Segall fans to T. Rex, nor T. Rex fans to Segall, but you still gotta give Segall a grade of “W” for “Wow, man!”
Which is a decent enough summary of the entire album. Maybe it’s not the only record you need to hear this week, but wow, man, you definitely need to hear it.
DOWNLOAD: “20TH Century Boy,” “Elemental Child,” “The Motivator”