Ty Segall: $ingle$ 2

Segall's collection of cast-off numbers is a slow burn build to the single stand-out track.
Ty Segall
$ingle$ 2
Drag City

The vast majority of tracks on $ingle$ 2 sound like nothing so much as a Kenmore vacuum cleaner. I mean this metaphorically, of course. In the most basic terms these songs sound like cast-off bits of psychedelia and garage rock. Not that they could sound any other way, with titles such as “Mother Lemonade” and “Children of Paul” and “Cherry Red”, titles that suggest Ty Segall might have been flipping through the discount bin and cribbing notes from discarded Electric Prunes albums or trying and failing to imitate the Beatles at their whimsical best. The actual sounds here — all thwonking drums and muddy guitars and fuzzy effects — suggest he was probably listening to the same and the vocals, which resemble nothing so much as a bored John Lennon at the worst of times (as in “Falling Hair” and “Children of Paul”) and the more lyrical registers of Ray Davies (scope “It’s a Problem” for your proof) at the best of times, only prove it. These are easy, derivative songs that might be listenable if they weren’t so overladen with noise.

But then take away that noise and the song’s nonexistent character would be too pronounced. The cacophony that each song is mired in is not the result of creative tension, of energy run rampant. Segall understands that noise and vitality are connected in music, certainly, only he doesn’t grasp that noise is just the signal, the smoke to let everyone know there’s a fire nearby. He mistakes it instead for the thing that instills life and so he piles it on to every song. He piles and piles such high mounds of static fuzz onto everything that the actual musical ideas get lost under all of those effects. Just try to find the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale” in this ostensible cover; you’re far more likely to find something that resembles the Beatle’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” under all of that mess only it’s much, much flatter than it should be.

It’s not as if Segall doesn’t recognize there’s something fundamentally off with this work, either. Too many of the songs — “Falling Hair”, “Cherry Red”, “Children of Paul” — begin or end with sounds from the studio, such as a whistle here, a clap there, a little bit of banter between band members, as if Segall wanted to remind us that this is, in fact, a collection of B-sides, unreleased tracks and cast-off ideas. Most sound unfinished, more demos than songs. “Hand Glams” suffers from an abrupt shift in styles at the 40-second mark. It’s as if someone in the editing room accidentally fused two entirely unrelated tracks and never got around to fixing it. The first minute of “Music for a Film” sounds like a warm-up to the rest of the song rather than a build to it: this is jamming that should have stayed in the garage and off of the final recording.

In fact, the entire album sounds like a warm-up number to the final track, “Pettin’ the Dog”, at which point there is some kind of break. The guitarist, who’s gotten sick of Segall’s nitpicking, his formalistic little experiments and carping demands, lets loose with a rip that tears right across the surface of this track. No doubt tired, bored and forgotten, the drummer answers this with a machine gun burst, the exhausted bassist perking up and coming in behind. They’re throwing punches at each other, starting a fight, and Segall steps into to break it up. Except he finds he’d rather join in, that he’s as upset as they are. He’s not merely annoyed or frustrated but furious: “everyone’s got something to do… everybody’s got some kind of job… everybody’s got someone to love. NOT ME!”, he rails, channeling Bad Brain’s H.R., and for once the omnipresent fog of noise that cloaks this album feels natural. Better, even: it feels earned. What begins as a formless din quickly coheres into something structured: these kids aren’t just throwing jabs wildly but are anticipating the move of their bandmates, thinking ahead and playing the game. This isn’t a backstreet brawl (though at first glance it seems like one) but something more choreographed.

Which is to say, finally, that it sounds fucking great. It’s not worth the 11-track preparation, granted, but it feels like the jumping off point for an honest album of similar material. It feels like a promise. Now he’d better not break it…

RATING 3 / 10