Ty Segall’s garage-rock past is dissolving into the sonic ponds of his many new mainstream influences. Ever the experimentalist, Ty pushes his knowledge of music to the limit in his latest record First Taste. The result is not precisely the grimy indie rock that has characterized the artist for over a decade: the dynamic guitar solos, fuzzy basslines and rough vocals have been replaced by not so euphoric electronic sounds. An artist is always bound to evolve on the road to stardom, they have to, but that does not mean that they cannot take a wrong turn.
Ty Segall’s charm has always been his uncompromising commitment toward the mighty ferocity of rock so many love. The promise of rock’s furious return that bands like the Vines once carried accompanied Segall as well. Why one only needs to think back to a few years ago when Segall was shredding the KEXP studio with his band the Muggers. The aggressive tone of his music, the gritty vocals and the electric sounds of that performance unveiled rock’s new face to the world: modern electro-rock was born with Segall. His personality and bizarre antics was a monster unleashed onto the music landscape, a monster that now seems to be eating itself.
First Taste opens with the quaking electronic crashes we have all come to love from Segall. The opening track, aptly titled “Taste” features impressive drum and percussion work and choruses vibrant enough for a mass choir. The sound is bizarre but not yet unwelcoming, that comes later. Segall emerges in the second track “Whatever” as his lead vocal opens the song and leads it past distorted/sustained electro noises, tambourines, string instruments and even recorders in the song’s outro. By the third track, you feel you have been through a sonic marathon of conventional and worldly instruments, and then Segall hits you with “Ice Plant” an uncharacteristically warm track that features angelic vocal harmonies and a tender vocal inflection from Segall.
That third track is actually a long intro for the fourth song “The Fall” which erupts with yet more distorted noises and features a drum solo to boot. The sixth track “The Arms” once again pushes away the madness of it all to reveal Segall the artist pondering on family, adventure and the uncertainty of life to the sound of lively strings. Track eight is perhaps the most telling of the album as Segall sings “I sing my song so I am free/ I sing them/ I sing my song and sound like me” and indeed he does for a flash. The album closes with the upbeat track “Lone Cowboys” which is just a sonic cocktail of everything that preceded it since the start of the record.
Listening to an artist nibble on himself the way Segall does is uncomfortable. In his attempt to create something utterly different, he has incorporated the same gimmicky over-instrumentalization that plagues indie rock groups like Pond. His creativity is consuming him and pushing him further away from the promise he once held. Ty Segall sounded like no one else; he had a style that incorporated the fury of rock’s past with the modern sounds of today. At the moment, Segall is just another artist trying too hard to be different, and it shows.