It was at the infamous Beerland in Austin during SXSW 2011 when I last saw Ty Segall live. Sweaty and cramped, the crowd ate up Segall’s set; it was the musical equivalent of a stranded swimmer thrashing against the waves for dear life. He was a one man wrecking crew, sucking in the crowd with the kind of intensity one might expect from the perennially-labeled “next one” of garage punk. Though it’s been said before, it should be noted that he did indeed channel the fury of the late Jay Reatard, with whom comparisons are often made. And past releases, including the critically lauded (And with good reason) Melted, his 2010 full-length on Goner Records seemed to epitomize his artistic pursuits: play ‘em fast, play ‘em hard and when you can, get a little weird.
And that’s how I naively labeled Ty Segall, backing his music into a corner.
Forget what you know about Segall. Let the stereotypes that follow him be laid to rest. With Goodbye Bread, Segall’s first full-length on Drag City, he has mastered the hard right turn. Gone are the furious punk numbers that leave you charged up and horny but at times, unsatisfied in the long run.
What Goodbye Bread delivers is the kind of artistic progression that is full of poise, vision and self-respect. Each of the ten tracks are drenched in fuzz and reverb, but still thick with a crunchy push that seems to channel more of the greats (John Lennon, Neil Young) and their penchant for quality songwritings than his fuzz-rock peers. Whereas past Segall releases (And his live show) leave you feeling dry in the mouth, and assured you had a good time but unsure how it happened, Goodbye Bread delivers the opposite effect: this is the hazy sound of the next morning, in which the faces around you show their true emotions and much clarity and understanding is delivered from a night out on the piss.
Sure, mornings like this are rare, but so are records like Goodbye Bread. While it might not have the unifying, brotherly effect of past releases, Goodbye Bread is the kind of record best experienced alone, as it showcases an artist truly going against the grain, and delivering a standout record that moves in a different direction but still upstages his previous, much loved release.
Comparing the 23-year-old Segall with John Lennon might sound a tad odious to some rock and roll purists, but “I Am With You” should leave even the most hardened of cynics feeling not just converted, but weightless. There is a desolate wisdom to his voice, one of a man going alone on his own path. Beginning with polite acoustics before growing into committed deliverance, Segall has never sounded more like a man amongst boys. Then there is “Comfortable Home (A True Story)” in which Segall explores the deeper meaning behind the banal happenings of everyday life amidst the kind of groovy sludge Neil Young was known for. Truly, Segall has one his work boots and is ready to explore all his influences.
But ultimately, we should not think too much about what the future holds but enjoy Goodbye Bread for its immediate redeeming qualities. He knows how to master the simple sing-a-long sway on “I Can’t Feel It,” how to balance that warm, hazy sway with hints of jangle-pop on “The Floor” and finally, how to relate the uncompromising feelings of love and warmth as they appear to him on “Fine,” the album’s superb closer.
That very closer is the kind of track which may leave listeners wondering what direction Segall will head in next. But when Goodbye Bread gets it right on so many levels, the only thing one can do is trust Segall, in as much as he has trusted his own terribly unique artistic vision.