Ty Segall‘s recent output is a strong sampling of what to expect from his work. Based on 2011’s Goodbye Bread, and 2012’s collaboration with White Fence, Hair, I expected Slaughterhouse to be yet another high quality and coherent example of the lo-fi, garage rock for which Segall is known. His first album for In the Red, Slaughterhouse, easily meets and exceeds any and all expectations in terms of quality, making it undoubtedly one of the best releases of the year; however, the album goes in a different direction sonically, dramatically expanding Segall’s depth and maturity as an artist.
Simply put, I probably wasn’t the only one who didn’t expect Slaughterhouse to rock as hard as it does. Segall’s music has often been described as face melting, but Slaughterhouse‘s cover takes that concept to the nth degree with a black and white demon face that’s surely the spawn of Medusa, Regan from The Exorcist and The Blair Witch. (Admittedly, with a cover like that, and a name like Slaughterhouse, I must have been an idiot to not expect a neck-breaking full length.)
“Death,” the leadoff track, opens with distortion and guitar feedback before some occult-like, chanting lyrics make sure that all the squares have cleared out of the room. Segall rips into chorus and tells his fans to “have no fear,” a nice assurance, but also an unnecessary one if you listen to the follow-up track, “I Bought My Eyes.” The second single off the LP, this song has some of the most infectious guitar riffs and pop vocals Segall has ever written. The sounds remain crusted and rough but the melodies are tight and memorable, a trend that continues throughout the whole album and in this instance recalling early works by The Pixies or Pavement.
The middle section of Slaughterhouse finds Segall veering towards more emotional waters without ever sacrificing his bravado. “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart” isn’t a sappy love song or a whiny ballad; Segall merely comes off as just a confident, secure dude that’s interested in learning about the deepest thoughts and desires of another person. The refreshing simplicity and genuineness continues on “Wave Goodbye,” a song about accepting the passage of time, growing older, and moving on to new things. Or… maybe Segall just slapped something together in five minutes and thought it sounded dope (it does). Either way, the effortless lyrics take a backseat to the two-guitar duel that is the final quarter of the song. Next up is “Muscle Man,” a cut that sounds like an amped-up version of The Sonics, and at a minute and thirty-two seconds it would have been a solid contender for our recent list of 10 amazing 90-second songs. Segall is a master of brevity throughout the album, after all, and the entire disc would only be 29 minutes long were it not for the whirly ten minutes of guitar feedback and droning on the closing track, the aptly titled “Fuzz War.”
The real magic of Slaughterhouse isn’t that it continues Segall’s recent and impressive track record, nor is it how Segall manages to maintain his pop sensibilities within a dark, bristly context. It’s that the album is less tangible and harder to describe, with an added third dimension to the music, and a confidence and coolness on Segall’s part that made me feel like a high school kid experiencing his first college party. The music is almost always aesthetically familiar but feels realer, more intense, fuller. The swathes of horror, evil and death are probably just a façade — a barrier to entry that’s hopefully just high enough to dissuade the tenuous, but not so brooding that it destroys the accessible guitar riffs, vocal melodies and funky rhythms that make up the album’s true gems. There’s a hint of blockbuster accessibility within the album’s dark corners, but for now, Slaughterhouse lurks in relative obscurity, a prized possession for all who hold it, and a treat for all those who experience it for the first time. As Segall succinctly puts it at the end of “Wave Goodbye,” “fuck YEAH!”
Stream: Ty Segall Band – “Wave Goodbye”