Artist: Ty Segall Band
Label: In The Red Records
When we talk about modern rock records, we generally place them into some kind of historical musical context. How does this album with guitars stack up against this other album with guitars? Is it as good as seminal rock albums like Fun House, Axis: Bold As Love, or the Dictator’s first record? The high water mark is different for everyone but we all have a particular sound or riff by which we personally think all other guitar sounds should be measured. It could be the massive wall of sound that comes peeling off your worn copy of Led Zeppelin’s II or something simpler, but no less effective, like the stomping, full-bodied progressions to which the dead-end runners on Born To Run make their last ditch escape. Some people might say that it’s unfair to compare albums like this, as each artist should be given a chance to place their own indelible stamp on the genre. And in theory, I would agree with you, but rock music has said and done so much over the last 50 years that something “new” is most likely not going to happen. Does that mean that a band can’t have fun and inject some ferocity and energy into what can be a lazy, cliché-ridden genre? I sure as hell hope not, as my job would get really boring, really quickly. Thankfully though, that’s not the case, as we all have bands that we zealously love and show off to our most trustworthy and like-minded friends. Music is nothing if not communal.
Similar to how the Ramones took those three chord songs and pumped so much life into them that you found yourself not paying attention to their simplicity but focused more on their innate likeability and penchant for juvenile delinquency, bands today have to look past their own commercial viability and focus instead on how their music connects with the listener on a primal level. Does that guitar riff hit you like a ton of bricks? Can you feel that reverb deep in your chest? It may sound strange but that perfect guitar sound fills you; it rattles around inside your bones and brain until it’s all you can hear, all that you care to hear. So many artists lay claim to their rock influences but never really understand what made those artists so popular in the first place and this causes their sound to comes across as inauthentic and diluted. But garage rocker Ty Segall knows exactly why they were so popular. And on Slaughterhouse, his new album as the Ty Segall Band, he shows us exactly what can happen when you’re well aware of your own place in rock canon.
On his previous records, Segall has shown that he has a knack for reinterpreting classic rock archetypes. From the re-imagined 60’s bubblegum rock on 2010’s Melted to the stripped down simplicity of 2011’s Goodbye Bread, he’s never been one to eschew his influences; in fact, he wears them so proudly that they’ve become as much a part of the music as Segall himself. This is decidedly referential music. You can sit and pick out exactly what bands from which he’s allocated certain sounds and riffs. It could easily have come across as musical plagiarism if it wasn’t done with so much reverence and understanding of what made those original songs work.
On Slaughterhouse, Segall and his now official backing band set their sights squarely on making music that compels you to do something; it doesn’t really matter what that “something” is, just as long as it’s fast and possibly destructive. How many times have you almost gotten a speeding ticket while listening to “Search and Destroy”? It’s the same idea. Opening track “Death” begins ominously, developing a distorted hiss that engulfs everything else for the first half of the song. A little after the two minute mark we get to the body of the song, and Segall’s vocal screech fires up alongside the shredding guitar and sets in motion the forward momentum that will carry us through to the end of the record. As with his other albums, the influences are easy to spot. From the Queens of the Stone Age “No One Knows” riff on “The Tongue” to the Siamese Dream-era thick, sludgy guitar lines on “Wave Goodbye”, Slaughterhouse comes together as the best of the bands’ inspirations, and contrary to what you may think, knowing where these sounds come from in no way lessens their impact or effectiveness.
And far from being so serious as to border on parody, you always feel that Segall and the band are having a great time tearing through these songs. As he leads the band through a seemingly off-the-cuff version of Bo Diddley’s “Diddy Wah Diddy”, you can practically hear Segall laughing along with them as they surge through the song, complete with him screaming “Fuck this fucking song” at the end and giving the band an admonition that they should have kept going. The only break from tradition here is on “Fuzz War”, where the longer run time and layers of distortion and guitar squelches and dissonance bring to mind noise-rock artists like John Weise or Wolf Eyes. This song brings the album to a close in a slightly darker fashion on previous records, but in a way, it’s fitting as well, as it brings to light another influence on the band.
Ty Segall has never set out to prove that he’s the rightful heir to garage rock, any more than his friend and fellow garage rock mantle-bearer Jay Reatard did before he passed away. But with Slaughterhouse, the case for just that is made regardless of his intent. So grab your copies of Fun House and Go Girl Crazy! and get out on the road. My guess is that you’ll be sliding Slaughterhouse back into your cd player before you hit the next state line.