As The Name Implies…
You should never expect accuracy from band names. The Gorillaz are not gorillas, Joy Division was less than joyful and the Barenaked Ladies are much less exciting than they should be. That said, books can occasionally be read by their covers. Not what you’d guess from a band called Fuzz, but they actually hit pretty close to the mark on this one. The Ty Segall-powered project recently released their debut album (not counting a trio of 7” singles), which was also called Fuzz. It’s also a glorious, static-laced and rhythmically masterful little album. But yes, it’s also quite fuzzy– no getting around that one.
Can we take a moment to appreciate the names of the songs off Fuzz? Anything that begins with a track called “Earthen Gate” already has my vote, especially when the track behind the name kicks as much ass as this opener. “Earthen Gates” starts slow and absolutely menacing (a little disorienting too, thanks to some skipping stop-start effects). Other reviewers have pointed out the Sabbath influence in Fuzz and they’re completely right; the droning, unabashedly discordant guitars that surface on several songs on the album would make Iommi proud. But where Sabbath would devolve into brimstone, Fuzz dials “Earthen Gate” back a notch, as a beatific guitar line rises over the buzz. Of course after that, they power right back in again.
And there you have one of the coolest features of Fuzz. The album shines in terms of sonic variety. The members of Fuzz have some of the tightest rhythmic control around, and they make full use of it. It’s not unusual to see one song undergo several permutations as Segall (drums), Charlie Moothart (vocals/guitar), and Roland Cosio (bass) noodle around with it. Nowhere is this as evident or effective as on album highlight “What’s in My Head.” The song is one giant chain of looping crescendos-– just when you think the guitar can’t reach any higher, the soaring, triumphant chorus cuts in and then cuts out again, leaving only Cosio’s bass and Segall’s plodding drums until the cycle begins anew. It’s well-paced, it’s rhythmically ingenious, and it’s so, so awesome.
It is possible to get lost in Fuzz. Plow through it in one sitting, and you’ll find that songs blend together a little. However, every couple of tracks, something comes along to shock you back to attention-– “What’s in My Head” is a prime example. “Loose Sutures” is another, as Segall is unleashed for an extended drum solo that might yank some listeners back to the Led Zep glory days.
And, as soon as it starts, Fuzz is over. Masterful pacing once more, the album gets in, gets out, and leaves you wanting more.