Ty Segall & White Fence
(Drag City; 2012)
By Maura McAndrew | 4 May 2012
West coast psych-rockers White Fence (a.k.a. Tim Presley, also of the Strange Boys) and Ty Segall are a worthy match, and not just in sound, but in work ethic: Presley has already followed up last year’s White Fence is Growing Faith with the two-volume Family Perfume record, and Segall similarly released two albums last year. But as their first collaboration, Hair, has more oomph than either has managed on a solo record, it might just make sense for the two to team up permanently instead of grinding their gears on sometimes-half-baked solo jaunts. Though Hair careens around its garage-rock playground, sometimes hitting a magic groove and other times wrecking completely, together Segall and Presley have proven they possess the demented spirit to navigate this record’s roughest corners with aplomb.
While Segall’s Goodbye Bread (2011) made an impression for its more focused take on his favorite 1960s sound, Hair is by no means another step in that direction—two impatient garage rockers does not a thoughtful record make. Not that it matters, because what Hair lacks in Goodbye Bread_-style mood and melody it more than makes up for in rollicking energy. The first three songs alone are sharp enough to grant the record a solid stereo stay: “Time”’s opening leads hit that George Harrison sweet spot, and “Easy Ryder” hauls along like a much-beloved cut from the _Back from the Grave series, its weirdo lyrical chant of “Don’t watch TV / Don’t go to sleep / Don’t close your eyes / Don’t wash your clothes” further deepening its psych roots.
But second track “I Am Not a Game” is the record’s true showstopper, epitomizing the duo’s mix of manic organ, crashing guitars, and woozy vocals. This is what these guys do best: a waterfall of all the elements that define their decades-old sound stuffed into one song until it feels fit to burst. Everything comes together just right; it’s, sincerely, pure bliss. The other tracks with a more-is-better approach, “The Black Glove/Rag” and “Scissor People,” are less successful, coming a bit off the rails, a bit apart at the seams—but even when these guys are overextended they make for a fun listen.
Though it’s never exactly uptight, Hair manages to loosen as it progresses. “Crybaby” is kind of the perfect album midpoint; just when you think Segall and Presley have fallen down the psych-rock rabbit hole (with “The Black Glove/Rag,” especially), an aggressively silly, Cramps-style rockabilly number opens with some faux-theatrical blubbering. Care of different tracks and influences like this, Hair is more of a juicy stew than a straight-up throwback record (see Gentleman Jesse for an example of the pitfalls of playing it straight). And ultimately, Hair sounds like the messy product of two finely matched rockers heading into the backyard with beer and distortion pedals. Fuck songcraft; fuck originality; it’s almost summer. And everything that means.