Album Review: Ty Segall - First Taste
By giving his new record the title First Taste, Ty Segall is fully aware of the expectation he’s putting in people’s minds. It is pretty much an impossibility to try to number the projects and albums he’s put out, but his solo studio albums stand up as the imperative listens in his sprawling catalogue. First Taste comes 18 months after Freedom’s Goblin (which is actually quite a long gap for Ty), and by naming it this way he’s setting up the expectation that this is going to be a fresh sound for him. And then he obliterates that idea within the first minute of the record.
“The salivating makes it all taste worse!” he yowls in the chorus of opening track ‘Taste’. It’s a visceral metaphor for how expectation can set you up for disappointment, made all the more tactile by the booming and fizzing production. Merely examining the elements of ‘Taste’ on paper, you’d have to say it’s just another ultra-catchy garage rock song, but in actually listening to the track it’s undeniable that there’s so much more. The drums pound mercilessly, billowing the sails of the juiced up instrumentation, which sends the song rocketing through aural space with thrilling abandon. Immediately it’s clear that the real step forward for Ty Segall on First Taste is the depth and detail of the production.
Having grown to know, trust and anticipate each other nightly onstage as the Freedom Band, Ty’s collaborators seem to have a lot more openness to new ideas on their studio work. What pushes First Taste well beyond being just another set of tightly written fuzz-rock rippers is the broader palette of unexpected instruments and production choices. Throughout the album the riffs are bolstered by a host of diverse string instruments; mandolins, koto and bouzouki all bringing unexpected shades of glee. Elsewhere there are families of wailing recorders, hair-raising brass giving a queasy edge to the songs’ wayward turns, a gurgling of harmoniser trickling beneath – and a fully a capella song in ‘Ice Plant’.
But perhaps the most exciting element of all – or at least the area providing the kerosene for the bonfire – is the percussion. The drumming throughout First Taste is genuinely three-dimensional thanks to the regular utilisation of double kits, one in each channel (Ty playing in your left ear and Charles Moothart in your right). These are recorded so vividly that they create the impression you’re ducking debris from a volcanic eruption in ‘The Fall’, give us the feeling of joining an intergalactic marching band in ‘Radio’, and place us galloping in formation off into the sunset on the closing ‘Lone Cowboys’.
Ty Segall plays his part as band leader, singer and all-round magic man to practical perfection. While a few of the tracks here are not among the best he’s written, they’re made worthwhile purely through his dedication. He’s happy to use classic lyricism and structures, but combine it with ideas drawn from across the globe, and when it comes together powerfully, as it does on more than half of these tracks, then he’s in a league of his own.
With his charisma and creativity at the core of these songs, and an incredible group of collaborators around him, Ty Segall has created an album that will appeal to both long-term listeners and first timers – just like pretty much every one of the other studio albums in his increasingly legendary discography.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 2nd August 2019