Heavy music for heavy times — a maxim generations of musicians have leaned on for years in times of great political discord. Some of Black Sabbath's first metal songs targeted the political corruption of Britain's elected "War Pigs." Punk came of age during the Ronald Reagan years as a backlash to the president's hardcore conservatism.
There's just something cathartic about listening to overbearing, hard-edged riffs that match the unforgiving nature of our political climate. Ty Segall's latest record, Ty Segall — his second self-titled in nine years — can be that necessary rage listen for early 2017.
The album, which drops Friday, is the eighth solo release from the restless, prolific Segall, a man hailed as one of the last true creative forces in garage rock. He's certainly one of the only artists to continually garner mainstream critical attention for every new spinoff and side project he comes up with, which have ranged from the proto-metal Fuzz to his psych punk GØGGS. The album takes all these separate threads and weaves them together into perhaps the most complete and polished look at Segall's art we've heard to date.
2017's Ty Segall is the first to feature Segall's full live band — guitarist Emmett Kelly, bassist Mikal Cronin, drummer Charles Moothart and pianist Ben Boye — playing together in the studio, all under the watchful eye of legendary producer Steve Albini.
Segall usually goes the Prince route and plays most instruments himself. But the push and pull of the band moving through the intricate compositions — two of the most impressive being "Freedom" and its 10-minute counterpart "Warm Hands (Freedom Return)" — creates a reckless energy fit to stab through all outside distraction and keep the listener's ear trained to the proverbial stage.
Each musician works to stretch the tropes of blues to their absolute breaking point. The slab-like waltzing riffs of "The Only" fall like the wobbling footsteps of a drunk giant. The album's opener, "Break A Guitar," contains echoes of Black Sabbath's jazz-inspired rhythmic looseness, accompanying lyrics that hit like a poetic punch to the gut.
However, the record is not without its tender moments. "Orange Color Queen," a light psych ballad dedicated to Segall's girlfriend, echoes a White Album-era Beatles and the bands that have sought to repurpose that mass-appeal rock 'n' roll — Portugal. the Man, Dr. Dog, Innerspeaker Tame Impala. A subtle tension pervades the song, like the band is chomping at the bit, ready to charge back into the two-ton distortion of the album's heavier numbers.
The band seems to be having real fun resurrecting and reimagining these sub-genre vestiges that Segall has worked to master over his decade-long career. It helps lift the listener into that world, where the riffs are loud and fulfilling enough to drown out the ceaseless dissonance in the real world.