A consensus pick as one of last year’s top albums, the momentum behind Ty Segall’s Goodbye Bread has already carried over into 2012 with the San Fransisco garage punk’s collaboration with White Fence (Tim Presley). Listenability an increasingly moot concern, Segall continued his breakneck string of acclaimed albums about a month back with Slaughterhouse, released under the Ty Segall Band moniker, recording alongside longtime collaborator Mikal Cronin, guitarist Charles Moothart, and drummer Emily Rose Epstein. The album is invariably powerful, and undeniably good. Which, oddly enough, might somehow detract from its impact.
History has proven creativity and talent to be something of a sand-in-an-hourglass scenario, both steadily caving in as the universal force of time sucks the source of its fertility. So what’s one to do when the muse strikes at the same time that creativity and talent are peaking? In Ty Segall’s case he’s turned this equation into tireless creation, keeping up an absurdly prolific recording and touring schedule. And can you blame him? When so many creative-types go without ever tasting such a wildly rare combination of flavors, he’d be a fool to not drink until the well runs dry.
From a listener’s perspective though this can be a divisive combination, leaving many to either gain a deeper appreciation of his craft or burn out from pure overload. As a friend of mine said in his review of Slaughterhouse, likening writing Ty Segall reviews to annually penning Father’s Day greetings, “How many ways can you thank a person for doing what they do before it sounds trite and banal? Thanks Dad for supporting me for 26 years… you are the BEST!” Taking the unenviable task of critiquing his rapid consistency one step further, Pitchfork’s Stuart Berman almost went out of his way to not write about Segall for a few paragraphs in his review of the album. And then there’s whatever this is… Pure Redundancy: words about other people’s difficulty mustering fresh ways to describe someone’s abilities. Maybe if he sucked more often it’d be easier to maintain interest in music as enjoyable as this? Back to the music though…
Segall’s albums have served not to cast him merely as a powerful musician, but to showcase him as a diverse artist within a relatively narrow genre. Despite being problematic for people trying to add their two cents as to why he’s good, with each new release Segall is increasingly keeping things interesting by switching-up which version of himself we hear on any particular recording. Distortion and melody holding constant, Segall’s music has a way of teetering between soft bubbly psych-influenced pop-rock and aggressive, borderline-caustic noise. This is a line that Segall walks with brazen confidence throughout Slaughterhouse.
Shrill screams mash with propulsive guitars in the both the album’s opener “Death” and its title track. “The Tongue” and “Oh Mary” bounce on distorted grooves, while “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart” swings between vocal harmonies constrained shredding. The band’s take on Fred Neil’s 1965 track “That’s the Bag I’m In” is a feedback growling monster, and drawn out album closer “Fuzz War” holds remarkably true to its name. There’s a complementary duality within Slaughterhouse that speaks to how harnessed and uncontrollable the band-leader’s music can be at any given moment. So while overload is possible, the music’s diversity leaves it unlikely.
No doubt that when the pageview milking list-machine yields its ugly head at the end of the year, Ty Segall will again be one of the consistently prevailing figures mentioned as having created one of 2012′s Best Albums. If not for the White Fence collaboration Hair, then certainly for Slaughterhouse (and if not for Slaughterhouse, then certainly for whatever else he comes up with in the next few months). The truth is, that regardless of how difficult it might be to consistently qualify the his music, Segall seems intent on making the most of what he’s got going for him right now. And good on him for it. Legends are made of those who can keep his pace up for decades, while time tends to forget the many thousands of artists whose stars fail to align for even an entire release. Right now, Segall’s somewhere in the middle of that particular spectrum. Whether overwhelmed or inspired by his output, one can’t help but hope that the man’s hourglass defies history and leaves us with even more great music like this before his run inevitably comes to an end. The world needs more legends.