Ty Segall has turned into one of the more promising artists to emerge from the bevy of garage rock bands that have cropped up in the last couple of years. Last year’s Goodbye Bread saw Segall grow by leaps and bounds, taking his garage rock and incorporating bits of Lennon-esque pop and along with dazzling harmonies. Segall expanded his horizons beyond the scope of typical garage rock signifiers to something that could appeal to a wider audience. His songwriting abilities, which have never really been lacking, appeared in full bloom as well. Segall’s latest Hair — a collaboration with White Fence — doesn’t offer such transcendence. It’s pretty much a garage rock album through and through, albeit one with a lot of charm.
Segall and White Fence have claimed that this album doesn’t so much sound like either artist in particular, but something new. It would certainly be a misnomer, however, to say that what they’ve come up with is something entirely novel. All of the hallmarks that have become attached to psychedelic garage rock over the last five decades are prevalent throughout the full-length, and nothing on the record is even remotely out of step with them. From the open lines of “Time,” which sound like they were recorded in a cave, to the classic overdriven guitar riff that directly follows, all sounds are right at home in the aforementioned tradition. That the song turns into a slow burning acoustic number is a little bit unexpected. But that’s only until around the 3:20 mark when the distortion kicks back in.
Following on the heels of “Time,” “I Am Not a Game” employs a pretty organ piece before moving into a noisy workout. And both songs, like much of the record, are fleshed out and well written. They may not have much new to offer the genre, but you can’t deny Ty Segall and White Fence’s songwriting abilities or dedication to their craft. There’s plenty to revel in, here — the band works in plenty of hooks, grooves and satisfying, earsplitting freakouts. Several tracks, like the manic “Scissor People,” take several unexpected turns, truly enhancing already frenzied performances. On the other hand, if you don’t already have a soft spot for this sort of stylistically backward looking music, Hair isn’t likely going to offer you a whole lot.
Although Hair comes across like a step backwards from Goodbye Bread, it may not be fair to hold every release up to Segall’s best work to date. Hair goes a long way in proving how passionate performances and undeniable melodies can do a lot to offset a lack of originality. Segall has another album on the way due out on June 26 with the Ty Segall Band that he’s described as loud and tough. In other words, it will likely hold just as tightly to genre constraints as Hair does, and although it may not be as satisfying as Goodbye Bread, that’s not such a bad thing. With a catalogue that seems to grow with each passing season, Segall proves time and again that garage rock gems just come naturally to him.