The new record from Ty Segall begins before it even begins spinning with a strange conjunction of a title and a cover image, not quite the umbrella and the sewing machine on a dissecting table, much cuter than that, less evocative of human behavior, but slightly puzzling and apparently arbitrary in a way that makes you think yourself silly for reading artistic motive into it. A saggy dogface that takes up the entirety of the cover (slightly more alarming and charming when that cover is covering an LP) and Goodbye Bread. I do not think this album is a goodbye to this dog that was Bread. But the record is cuter than I had expected and the title track, which opens the record, is poignant in a way that suggests that what or whoever Bread is, he/she/it will be missed and a reunion is not to be expected any time in the near or distant future.
Ty Segall is only 23, which he is probably sick of hearing even though it seems to usually be mentioned in a complimentary way, as he has already released five albums (including Bread, his first for Drag City), all of them since 2008. And certainly that precociousness is on display in a lot of his work, the concentrated growl of primitive garage rock spun out so that it stands apart from any number of less memorable artists digging in the same vein. Goodbye Bread is more hinged than most of what he has thus far released, less evident of a chaotic intent to maul the ears and bodies of those that come in contact with it than of a desire to slow things down and arrange things in a more arranged and less chance manner. Most of the songs proceed at mid-tempo, allowing some space for the airing out of some personal baggage and the development of repetitive, woozy and restrained undercurrents of cacophony.
“Goodbye Bread” is definitely the song that I have found myself coming back to again and again, and the references to John Lennon that I have seen dotting various commentaries on it seem justified in so far as it accords with Lennon’s penchant at times for barebones, gritty rock and roll as a vehicle for a voice to give strong shape to a particular emotional problem that cannot be shaken. It is simple and while the lyrics are vague they are also direct, easy for a listener to take in and surround with her own memories, which seems likely given the tune’s nostalgic but resolute leave taking from Bread.
“You Make the Sun Fry” is probably the most delightfully raunchy thing on the record, stripping rock ‘n roll tropes, gutting the blank-eyed carnage of relationship melodrama and building a bass-heavy, throbbing song that crunches along the edge of a guttural kind of psychedelia. And then a sing-a-long chorus somehow both spaced and anthemic. The crunchy “My Head Explodes” seems particularly indebted to the late 80s and early 90s with its quiet/loud dynamic and Siamese Dream recalling chorus. “California Commercial” and “Comfortable Home (A True Story)” are more playful, the first lampooning some myths of The Golden State – myths particularly being sloshed into huge heaps of disposable “indie” derived music at present – and the latter coyly expressing a desire to give some lucky girl the nice home that she wants even though it isn’t priority numero uno for Ty Segall. “Where Your Head Goes” is delectable fuzzing sludge garage effluvia and “I Am With You” closes the album on a coming-to-terms-with-an-unpleasant-period note without really quite coming to terms.
It is not hard to understand why Ty Segall headed up to San Francisco from Laguna Beach, San Francisco at the moment seeming (from afar) to be rife with squall and fogs of feedback: the lo-fi pungency of the Sic Alps, the bemused guitar-pop of Thee Oh Sees and The Sandwitches, the kraut-intoned space rock of The Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo. Retro in a whole different way from the beach-eyed, new-age kissed ’80s disorientation of the best and worst shit coming out of Los Angeles. “Goodbye Bread” fits in well on that side of the bay and in slowing things down a bit Ty Segall appears to be giving himself the opportunity to say something within his songs that alongside the all the noise might keep us tuned in for some time to come.