The Traditional Fools’ self-titled LP dates back to 2008 as one of Ty Segall’s many bands, even predating his first solo release. David Fox and Andrew Luttrell round out the band. The album encompasses everything one would come to expect from Segall’s music: relentlessly rocking lo-fi garage songs, with lyrics yelled mostly unintelligibly. The songs are short and abrasive and hint at surf-rock underneath the nonstop barrage of thrashing. Every song is full-speed ahead and sounds as though each member isn’t so much playing his respective instrument as banging the crap out of it.
The Traditional Fools clearly set out to make a no-frills, fun rock record and in that way they certainly succeed. The album opens with one of the few moments of levity on the entire record before breaking in to a cover of “Davey Crockett” by Billy Childish’s Thee Headcoats, basically a sped-up, loud, distorted version of the song which sets the template for most of the music to come. “Snot Rag” follows, propelled by a surf guitar lead, on top of a haze of dingy instrumen-bashing. “T.L. Defender” does the same, and both songs bleed into something vaguely hooky being yelled by the end. “Please” is an excellent song, based around a great garage riff and resembling something not far from what Segall would be writing on his self-titled debut or its follow-up, Lemons. “Layback!!!” is a furious surf jam, mostly instrumental, except for the band shouting the title every once in a while. “Get Off My Back” has the strongest melody of the album, sounding almost like a Buddy Holly song being played underneath layers of lo-fi garage grime. Every song here is played with reckless abandon, as if the band isn’t concerned much about the songs themselves or how they sound as much as they are playing everything as hard and fast as its members can muster. Although the playing can be sloppy, the band is tight, and the first-take nature of the recording reveals each band member’s genuine instrumental skills. A lesser band would not be able to pull this off.
The interesting thing about this album is that it combines surf licks with thrashing, blown-out garage songs. Normally surf music has a relaxed vibe and plenty of reverb, be it on the guitars or vocals. Even Dick Dale, with his 16th-note speed picking style, played guitar with a healthy amount of reverb along with a band that gave the music a laidback feel, even when the song was up-tempo. This album is the exact opposite of that. It takes surf rock and bashes it out as hard and fast as possible. This is by far the most furious surf band of all time. Their cover of Red Kross’ “Kill Someone You Hate” is so aggressive that it makes the original sound gentle in comparison. This is surf rock for surfers who prefer hurricanes to sunny days — beach party music from an alternate universe. Much of the album brings to mind the first few Reatards records in its youthful energy and complete abrasiveness.
Because of the album’s sound, it may take even a seasoned garage rock fan a little while to become fully immersed in this album, but repeat listens do reward. The songs become more familiar, and the best elements of each song start to shine through amidst the chaos. At 12 songs in 22 minutes, the album goes by quick. Ty Segall has since made a name for himself with his relentless work ethic (he released three solo albums just last year, without a dip in quality), as well as the noticeable growth in his songwriting capabilities and general aesthetic. If you’re familiar with enough of Segall’s work, you’ll definitely enjoy this album. If you’re new to Ty Segall, I suggest starting with 2011’s Goodbye Bread, last year’s Twins, or his collaboration with White Fence, Hair, before making your way to this record.