Ty Segall – Lemons

Ty Segall - Lemons

Ty Segall - Lemons

One-man act Ty Segall drew a fan base in the Bay Area and then successfully cast a bigger net with his well-received 2008 self-titled debut. 2009’s follow up, Lemons, builds and improves on all Segall’s previous efforts. Segall fits well into the long lineage of underground solo artists who emerge like a pimple, stewing under the surface a bit before blossoming. Obviously, some pimples are bigger than others, and the biggest ones can leave a lasting impression. Jay Reatard, the most contemporary version of this, crudely repackages the pop music today’s indie fans like. Before him, it was Beck drawing together folk and hip hop (among other things). Beck certainly had many forefathers, and each beget the next generation.

Ty Segall, like his counterpart, Reatard, puts the early 60’s burgeoning rock traditions through a new battery of tests. Like the artists of that well-aged rock era, Segall dares get louder and louder in volume, and cruder and cruder in execution, thereby defying what many consider conventional, traditional musical values. Calling the execution–the musicianship–crude is, of course, a term of convenience. Segall, Reatard, and company have a strategy and they practice their own sort of sophistication in crafting their product and establishing their ethos as artists. They have a sense of who they are and who their audience is, and they work in those parameters.

Lo-fi, a sound that is today more often a choice than it is necessity, is a big part of Segall’s method. It, like minimized instrumentation, is also something that can be abandoned once a certain level of status is achieved. Note the musical evolution of artists like Dylan, Beck, Elliot Smith, and, most recently, Reatard on his newest, Watch Me Fall. On Lemons, Segall likewise increases his instruments of choice, but holds on to the modesty afforded by lo-fidelity. And he keeps the most potentially intimate instrument, his vocal, buried deep in the mix, muffled in echo and reverb.

The music on Lemons works way more often than not, and many of Reatard’s loyal fans will find an equal or even better version of that sound here. Segall moves through a variety of moods and places with deceptive ease while always sounding like Segall. “It #1” immediately introduces those tin can recorded vocals behind jarring chord hits and a barely tonal surface. The songwriting, as always, throws a few wrinkles into standard pop chord progressions. This song bears a palatable air of The Kinks.

Segall introduces a Jerry Lee Lewis affectation to his vocal on “Standing at the Station”, a song whose fuzzy guitars and energetic rhythms bounce around as if recorded in a studio built of concrete and metal sheeting. On Lemons, Segall shows range; while “In Your Car” comes off strikingly abrasive, “Lovely One” is an acoustic stomper, “Cents” follows a threatening surf riff, and “Rusted Dust” treads intimately but eerily with soft vocals under poor boy bedroom riffing. On this last track in particular, Segall really captures a feeling of loneliness. But, for some listeners, the album’s biggest surprise will be the well developed and concentrated instrumental track, “Untitled #2”, a blues-inspired acoustic exercise that ultimately becomes a full pop song crowned by an unconventionally effective guitar solo.

Segall’s nearest misstep is “Die Tonight”, a pop number that sounds bland when paired with the other gems. But, if nothing else, it makes a great counterpart to the screaming mad following track, “Johnny”, the most raucous, overtly cathartic track on Lemons. This is a very solid album that makes as good a use of lo-fidelity as you’ll likely hear this year and maybe next. Segall offers a variety of tunes that, while not innovative, keep pop and rock music spinning like plates on sticks.

Goner Records