BY STEVE WILSON
Twenty-six year-old Ty Segall has recorded seventy-three albums in an unparalleled burst of creativity over the last seven years. Not really, it just seems like it. Mr. Segall is an artist more concerned with prolificacy and expression than perfection. He’s yet to make a great album, but his sheer productivity and talent have created a lot of good music.
His work is usually within the following idioms or a mix of them: day-glo garage-pop, psych-thrash, and stoner strum. Among his records Lemons epitomizing the first, Slaughterhouse the second, while his new record Sleeper is his most realized representation of the third.
On Sleeper, Segall mixes Marc Bolan’s fey plaints and fractured imagery, Peter Perrett’s doomed and dour vocalizations, the wasted romanticism of Neil Young’s basement burn outs and Big Star’s Third’s fragmenting psyches. His guitar changes tend toward Duchampian formalism (borrowed Neil and Bert Jansch motives) -found expressions of emotions dark and light. Dominated by insistent, but dour strumming and crash happy drumming, elegantly shambling songs like “Keepers,” “The West,” and “Queen Lullabye” communicate inchoate, but raw emotion; the last of these disintegrating into distortion and decipherability.
In its glum somnabulance Sleeper is punk’s version of Beck’s Sea Change. From the Diddley beat and electric guitar breakout of “The Man Man” to the Big Star drained, ELO pretty harmonies, slurred just right, of “She Don’t Care,” to the epic Syd Barrett disintegration (it also shares MGMT mood and sonics) of “Crazy,” Segall is a simple, but sensitive arranger who knows how to maintain interest within a fairly monolithic sonic menu.
Perhaps it’s sheer formal requirement, but more than in any of his previous music, Segall sounds invested personally in these songs. Reputedly, the death of his stepfather and his subsequent estrangement from his mother cast a shadow on these songs and sessions, although this is not autobiography, but reflection of wounded states of mind. Whether it’s the hippie apocalypse of “Keepers” (‘let your hair grow and let them know the dreamers can still shake hands’), the earnest query of “The West” (‘where do I go home?’), or the intimate longing of “Sleeper” (‘I want to sleep all day with you’), Segall’s poetics sound felt.
Where a kindred spirit like Jay Reatard showed, before his untimely passing, flashes of soul deep darkness in songs like “There is No Sun,” Segall always sounded like he was in it mostly for the pleasure of certain musical textures, and the thrill of occasional bursts of guitar mania. But with Sleeper Segall sounds almost, well, mature, and emotionally invested. Which is to say, terrific.
But Ty, do not hesitate to make a record with the raw, deranged zaniness of your garage-punk Epsilons. You can have your cake. And eat it too.
DOWNLOAD: “She Don’t Care,” “Keepers”