Ty Segall doesn’t write songs. He scrawls them.
Favoring purposefully sloppy performances captured in grainy garage lo-fi, the San Francisco musician flaunts his influences, as if he’s digested and proudly burped up decades of local psych, Rhino’s Nuggets box sets and hippie-rock history as well as every single band that’s ever stepped foot on the Fillmore West stage. There’s a lot of built-in context for what he does, and he’s smartly aware of what tropes and traditions he’s playing to. Rather than hem him in, this sense of the past makes him strive for a raw, transcendent wildness—something larger than his garage, something the size of a particular city. That he achieves it approximately half the time is amazing. The other half, it’s just fascinating to hear him reach.
A veteran of San Fran noise bands the Epsilons and the Traditional Fools, Segall has released three albums in half as many years, the latest, Melted, being his best and most fully realized (which, in a boisterous genre that favors mess over order, are not necessarily the same thing). During that short time, he’s transformed from a one-man band strumming, drumming, and humming his songs into a frontman for a small but sordidly powerful group, which frees him up for other duties. More than either of its predecessors, Melted has the stomp and strut of a musician who has stopped multitasking to concentrate on one thing: singing. Well, two things: singing and flailing on guitar.
On Melted, Segall continues to reject the relative niceties of his snarling influences. He disregards verses and choruses, willfully neglects to repeat some of his catchiest hooks, and swaddles everything in a bracing lo-fi buzz. Most of these songs entertain only one or two ideas; any more and they’d burst at the seams. That said, they sound more expansive and more nuanced than his previous albums. “Caesar” gallops by with an acoustic guitar, Segall’s unhinged vocals leading right up to a one-handed piano solo and a flute solo that sounds like someone strangling Dino Valenti. Repeatedly threatening to fall apart until it finally does, the title track lets the rhythm section run wild with a low, wet riff that snaps at the guitars like a rolled-up towel cracked at a freshman’s ass.
Segall is still a bit of a jester, as “Mike D’s Coke” proves, but he’s also becoming more of a craftsman, unleashing that jittery energy with more purpose and forethought. He lets “Sad Fuzz” be the pop song it wants to be, and the result is the catchiest thing he’s ever written, complete with an insistent hook and a caustic song-ending breakdown. And album-ender “Alone” hijacks b-side Pavement jangle for a trippily poignant meditation on… something. Lyrically it’s not important; what matters more is that Segall creates and captures the moment. His sense of rock history means he’s aware of the old adage about punks losing their vitality when they learn their instruments. Segall’s smart, but fights to play dumb. And that’s the most endearing and refreshing thing about him.