You’d forgive oddball Californian auteur Ty Segall for wanting to wipe the slate clean and start again. Over eight solo albums in as many years, plus nine collaboration records, he’s veered as wildly around the rock underground as Boris Johnson has around international relations. Cranky garage rock, experimental psych pop, nu glam, neo country and music he himself has described as “Satan in space” – Segall’s been all over the nether regions of alternative music.
So for album nine, Segall steps back, self-titles an album for the first time since his 2008 debut and, to help us catch up, goes back to basics. Pretty much. Besides a 10-minute garage psych sprawl called ‘Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)’ that sounds like The White Stripes collaborating with Hawkwind on a new thrash-blues song cycle for the climax of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this is a punchy half-hour summary of Segall’s stylings so far, with a ‘White Album’ buzz to it. Opener ‘Break A Guitar’ is a fine example of his gutter-glam side, like the lycanthropic Bowie of ‘Diamond Dogs’ running feral around Hunger City; ‘Freedom’ is the same on a sugar rush. Come ‘Talkin’’, he’s kicking back for a spot of porch-swing country, and ‘Thank You Mr K’ is skewiff Segall garage pop at its finest, complete with a bit in the middle where he stops and smashes up his flat.
Where like-minded Californian indie rock artists like Thee Oh Sees and Ariel Pink often set out to challenge and alienate with such sounds, Segall is closer aligned here to more melodic types such as Christopher Owens, Kurt Vile and the solo albums by Segall’s guitarist Mikal Cronin. The folkier, T Rex-ish final third of ‘Ty Segall’ features ‘Orange Color Queen’, a tender love song to his redheaded partner Denée Petracek, and the ‘Cry Baby Cry’ rewrite ‘Take Care (To Comb Your Hair)’ – not a sentiment, let’s face it, that comes up too often in the US indie scene. Scraping off the garage rock grit and disjointed sharp edges that characterised his previous album ‘Emotional Mugger’ for this definitive self-portrait, Segall scrubs up great.