Charles Moothart (aka CFM) is part of the Ty Segall alt family that is taking over the indie world. It is necessary to get that out of the way first, because it’s going to be on the mind while listening to all of Dichotomy Desaturated. Like it or not, this album is difficult to judge entirely by itself; it is simply more fun to consider it as an addition to a visionary group’s narrative of lo-fi innovation. And what does Moothart have to add to this library of garage rebellion? Retro — really well done retro, but…yeah, just retro.
A huge facet of the Segallian style is a barely contained anxiety that manifests in dark chord choices and production that takes an already rebellious punk style and gives it a millennial spin. “When in doubt, freak ‘em out,” as punk-influenced queen Sharon Needles would say. Dichotomy Desaturated chooses to take this style and polish it, as is clear from the first few chords of “Dichotomy.” It’s a familiar, whispery-toned voice over jangly acoustic guitar, but something feels…more Beatles and less Iggy.
Again, magic exists like the odd chord cul-de-sac on the line “have no duty.” It brings a smile to the listener, who is reminded of Mikal Cronin’s “Apathy.” But where the other Segallians exist as living art pieces of the post-ironic times, the lyrics on “Pinch the Dream” opt for an on-the-nose approach. “Trust in the toy that pulls on your mind / life in your pocket, you’ll be just fine / chasing the past to catch what I say / within a moment, the moment goes away.” Again, this isn’t a bad choice; it creates a “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” whimsy out of modern technology. It’s just ultimately a less magical take on retro than something like Segall’s “Woodland Rock,” which leaves the listener in awe of the balls it took to put out a crustified, exquisitely crunchy recording of what? A simple, 12-bar blues sock hop track that taught the listener exactly what the rebelliousness of this music can really feel like. Songs on Dichotomy Desaturated are fantastic recreations of authentic-sounding retro music that does Led Zeppelin proud. “Lethal Look” has a shredding guitar solo, and the groove and drum fills on “Rise and Fall” beg for a vinyl release. It’s just that the images they conjure are familiar — like walking into your local Vans store — whereas Moothart’s cohorts create fresh and almost scarily new images.
This is not to say the album is devoid of fresh images. Lyrically, the ideas behind songs like “Voyeur” are interesting. “We are the voyeurs of your daydream” is a creative way to look at the modern media issues introduced on “Pinch the Dream.” “Desaturated” has some fantastically creepy imagery of rodents crawling through the brush, taking the narrator’s identity to a low-down jerky place with which the listener can really start identifying. These moments, as well as the monstrous rhythmic capabilities of Moothart and his drummer, make for instant kickback classics. One can say that where this album goes more toward the jam angle, it leaves a bit of the weirdo aestheticism behind. And if that evolution of the Segallian sound is appealing, by all means give this album several listens. But when you’re in doubt, you know who to call on to freak ‘em out.