If your speakers aren’t peaking when you listen to “Scissor People,” the penultimate track on Ty Segall and White Fence‘s Hair, you’re obviously doing something wrong.
That’s not to say you can’t enjoy the album if noise isn’t your jam. It’s easy to slip the first official collab between SoCal garage-rock royalty Segall and former Strange Boy Tim Presley’s White Fence side gig into the growing idiom of retro-rock revivalism. But there’s something going on here that’s rawer than the Danger Mouse-produced blooze beats of the Black Keys, more mussed than the carefully cataclysmic arrangements of East Coast basement-shakers like the Men and Screaming Females. Segall and Presley make music that feels like it was born from a single amphetamine-addled afternoon in some humid San Fransisco warehouse, visceral and messy and full of the primal satisfaction that exists emotionally somewhere between brain freeze and orgasm. In the most classic, uncompromising sense: This album rocks.
On paper the union of Presley and Segall is a no-brainer. Here we have one dude enamored with wavy psych-rock songwriting, another dude a tireless champion of fuzz-punk brevity and both dudes as prolific and hard-working as they come. Presley, when not strumming for fellow roots revelers Strange Boys or Darker My Love, has been hard at work this year releasing his solo Family Perfume collection (Vol. 2 is due next month) under the White Fence banner. Segall, whom we haven’t heard much from since November (odd, by his standards), just put out a career-spanning Singles: 2007-2010 anthology that reminded in gut-punching, minute-and-a-half spasms why we’ve indulged his five solo albums, eight 7”s, compilations, collaborations and one adoring T-Rex tribute. Given their collective output, the most surprising thing about Presley and Segall’s first collaboration is that they limit their product from what must’ve been a sweltering marathon of jam sessions to eight tracks, amounting to less than 30 minutes of tape.
Even on a quick listen it’s easy to peg Hair as an album where two righteous rockers’ collective flights of fancy and old-school influences (Keith Richards solo shred pointillism, husky Captain Beefheart harmonies, Doors-y Hammond organ whorls) can meet to share a handle and validate the dopamine out of each other. Presley’s influence guides the merry-go-round organ trip of “I Am Not A Game” but makes plenty of room for Segall to jump in with trilling guitar lightning. “Crybaby,” a two-minute explosion of a single bluesy riff, catches Segall at his most frantically indulgent, hiccuping and moaning through verses in full-on Lux Interior drama queen mania until a slightly off-key piano plunk shuts him down.
The chemistry is electric, but Hair‘s most rowdy, rewarding moments occur when Segall and Presley’s respective genre sensibilities clash instead of compromise. The album is rampant with moments of folky strum-and-hum progressions being interrupted by three-chord thrashes of plummeting reverb, making for some schizophrenic arrangements in album opener “Time” and the aforementioned “Scissor People,” which inevitably breaks down into concussive noise seizures after a three-minute buildup. That the more straightforward lounge-about tracks like “Easy Rider” and “The Black Glove/Rag” are the weaker of the collection points to the only real criticism I have here: When unadorned by fuzz—glorious fuzz—the duo’s lyrics can lack depth, often defaulting on simple themes of “takin’ ‘er easy.” Still. Coming from a team as productive and tireless as Segall and Presley, the advice is well-received and gives me the hopeful sense that all the hard work they’ve been up to lately doesn’t actually feel like work to them. It’s just what they do. Let’s hope they keep on doing it.