A Brief Introduction to the Sonic Worlds of Ty Segall

Ty Segall
Ty Segall
Denee Petracek

Roaring out of Orange County in the late 2000s, Ty Segall is as known for his prolific output as he is his considerable onstage volume. Since 2008, Segall has released some nine studio albums, dozens of singles, a handful of EPs, and teamed up with like-minded bashers for collaborative albums and side projects. It's tough to keep up with Segall, but there's a frenetic energy to it all, encompassing garage rock, psychedelia, glam rock, and heavy metal. On his own and with friends, Segall's responsible for some of the best guitar rock of the past decade. Diving in can be intimidating, but worth it. This guide seeks to offer a little guidance.

Ty Today: Segall's latest, 2016's Emotional Mugger, works as good as any as an entry point to his output. It's caked in fuzz and impossibly distorted, but Segall's pop melodies are discernible even under the grime. Dale Crover of the Melvins provides drums on the Equals cover "Diversion," one of the heaviest of Segall's solo career. And "California Hills," with his loose riffs, angular jump cuts, and Dionysian invocations, sums up the chaos and gleeful charm of Segall's best work.

Next Step: 2009's Lemons was Segall's second proper solo album, and though it's devoted mostly to crunchy frat rock — see "It #1" and the Captain Beefheart cover "Dropout Boogie" — it also demonstrates Segall's versatility. "Lovely One" employs some folk rock moves, "Rusted Dust" sounds like it's floating in space, and "Johnny" charges ahead with a ferocity that makes your average hardcore band sound plodding.

Ty Pays Tribute: Segall's never been shy about highlighting his influences, and on 2015's Ty Rex, which bundles together two previously released EPs, he pays homage to Marc Bolan, grooving on immaculate jams like "The Slider" and the freaky folk tune "Cat Black." Dig deeper and you can find his "Motorhead/Paranoid" single, on which he rips up Hawkwind and Black Sabbath songs to great effect, and go back even further to his old group the Traditional Fools' self-titled release for takes on Thee Headcoates and Redd Kross.

Ty Gets Mellow: With 2011's Goodbye Bread, Segall got in touch with his inner John Lennon, committing to a mostly subdued set of classic-sounding songs for Drag City Records. The title track is one of the finest things he's ever written, and the phased-out "I Can't Feel It" evokes an unsettling mood it might not were it draped in distortion. Of course, there's some of that too, like the excellent "Where Your Head Goes" and "The Floor."

Pure Psych for Now People: Teaming up with Timothy Presley in 2012 for the LP Hair, Segall upped the psychedelic charm for this outing, resulting in a groovy batch of pop-psych that at turns recalled the Byrds ("(I Can't) Get Around You") and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd ("Time"). Hair proves how potent a collaborator Segall can be — as do his excellent team ups with singer/songwriter Mikal Cronin — and Presley holds up his end of the deal with warped textures and far-out harmonies.

Hardcore Listening: Segall's forays with Charlie Moothart and Chad Ubovich in the hard rock power trio Fuzz have been excellent, featuring heavy-ass boogies with the jams of Blue Cheer and Hawkwind in mind. And while the group's 2013 debut isn't markedly better than 2015's Fuzz II, it takes a slight edge in the cover art department, featuring a Tolkien-esque image of a mighty blue dragon or demon — sporting a halo and horns — and the band's name in a typeface that begs to be carved into a junior high desk somewhere in 1974.

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