It’s rare you get the feeling of being in the studio with an artist while she or he works out the kinks, but that’s what you find on Ty Segall’s singles collection. But these tracks, compiled over three years at Goner, are more than mere blueprints; they give access not only to Segall under development but also an intrinsic part of his musical character. The 25 songs, clocking in under an hour, paint a picture of a frenetic, hard-charging kid throwing everything he’s got at the wall and seeing what sticks.
Segall’s fuzzed-out Fender blares and blasts right from the get go. “Where We Go” opens up a door to Segall’s world, one where ’60s garage, surf and psychedelia never died out. Singles is presented to us in true lo-fi form, jagged edges and all. Count-offs, false-starts and studio chatter preserve the adolescence of the tracks. Segall’s vocals are also characteristically brash here. They’re loud with plenty of wails and howls, like he’s dying just to be heard. This can devolve at times into pure mayhem. “Booksmarts” starts out innocently enough, all surf tones, crashing drums and delay/reverb vocals. With 30 seconds to go the song implodes into a mess of tape squeal, fractious drums and guitar notes spilled all over the place. With a strong corollary to his most recent single, “Spiders,” we can tell Segall hasn’t lost his love or appreciation for just noise.
Tracing Segall’s musical roots is not difficult on Singles. The oddball humor of the Kinks-era “Fuzzy Cat” is a love letter to the British Invasion. The swirling electric organ on “…And then Judy Walked In” recalls a fraternity of ’60s groups making liberal use of it, bands like the Castaways, the Kingsmen and ? And The Mysterians. The standout here is “Skin,” appearing only here and on a Daytrotter
session from last year. That organ appears again but coupled with Segall’s natural gift for punk timing and energy. There’s a cover of David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” that Segall did with Mikal Cronin that really ought to be on here, given the record’s spirit to mix one measure tribute with two measures fierce creativity.
There’s plenty to enjoy in this collection of garage rock broadsides. There are yet unheard tracks as well as rougher cuts of what are by now standards for Segall. Glimpses too of his process prove enticing for those who are interested. Segall’s take on the ’60s “Hey everybody, I’ve got a new dance” song, “The Drag,” has a beat supplied by drum machine. Is the version that ultimately appeared better? No doubt. But it’s a worthwhile look at Segall’s development and process. Singles is a loud, fractious ride but one that casts a light on Segall’s own art and the art of those he admires.