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Impediments / Ty Segall - Impediments / Lemons

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Artist: Impediments / Ty Segall

Album: Impediments / Lemons

Label: Happy Parts / Goner

Review date: Oct. 23, 2009

Back when songs were written for sheet music as much as a recording, the composer and the lyricist worked in separate departments. During the rise of pop culture, the division of labor was perfectly reasonable. It’s not like the cameraman was expected to draft the screenplay, or promote the movie for that matter. Using the new technologies required specialization. Bob Dylan may have modeled himself on a roving troubadour, but when he announced that he’d put an end Tin Pan Ally, he was recognizing that his records were recognized as the vision of one guy. He wrote the chords, he wrote the words, and he got the press worked up.

The biggest lesson Dylan took from Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis (before he traded them for Woody Gutherie) may have been that the music, the words and the outrageousness could all come from one person. And so, the notion of the singer-songwriter got started, the one man song-factory. It pushed the Beatles, it pushed the Stones, and it pushed a lot of other late-1960s phenomena, like underground comix. A loner or few friends can take the methods of production-line music and make it art.

The Impediments and Ty Segall aren’t really shooting for art. Both bands are on the lower rungs of the garage rock scene, with enough promise to climb. These are discs are good fun, especially if you’re the type who regularly descends the ladder looking for new kicks. I’m throwing these two side by side, because the Impediments have a lot to say, and Seagall has got great control over white-noise rock n’ roll. The former could use an arranger and the latter could use some hooks.

The sound of the Impediments is Dolls-y/Stones-y blues-sleaze. The opener kicks that slop around, typically hyper and ragged, then breaks a chorus of "I wanna fuck Leanne Rimes." And over and over, they fit an impressive amount of sophmoric spite into their bar-burners. It works well because they’re actually at the end of their teens, and the spite is full of anachronisms and non-sequitors. Like this thing o’ beauty:

"You want a guy who likes Hall and Oates,
likes riding ponys
not riding goats.
That’s what you want.
You want a square."

Remove the tale of compulsive jerking-off from their closer "Vagina Envy" and it’s not nearly as, uh, propulsive. But then you don’t get many instrumental versions of Dylan songs, either. They sing about being dead three years from now, and they’re on track for making a mark before that. As obnoxious young libertines who don’t get too fratty, they’re not bad.

Segall’s Lemons, his second solo record in a year’s time, has full command of the busted-speaker garage sound. Which is good, ’cause you can’t make out much in the bottom-of-the-sea vocals. Even when he burns off some of the haze and moves the singing to the foreground, it’s not sing-along material. The most compelling track is the instrumental. Over a skiffle of rimshots, he pours various acoustic and over-driven guitars, and all of it sticks. "Johnny" is the kind of revved up terror that the Impediments are striving for. He shovels dirt all over a Beefheart song, enough to make it his own, enough dirt to obuscure the chorus of "Adapt her adapter." Van Vliet’s effort of fitting music to all those weird words makes the chords go places they wouldn’t go as riffs alone. I wish Ty had more than riffs.

Here’s the weird thing about punk rock, if you define it as dingbats who start a band out of nowhere. For the first few decades after 1965, it was rare that any of the records were worth the time past their debut. But those first first salvos were intoxicating. If they made a career, it’s ’cause they grew out of it. Now that recording is as cheap as a pawn-shop drum kit (especially if you don’t give a damn about sound quality), punk bands can take years to mature. The Marked Men have been putting out records since 2003, but it’s only with this year’s Ghosts that they’ve bottled up enough fury to match the early Wipers. The best thing on one Intelligence LP was a cover of Thee Oh Sees. As these bands hop from Goner to Dirtnap to Siltbreeze to In the Red, its like a DIY version of the song factory has emerged, as bands develop their strengths and drift toward the particulars of each label.

Back in ’65, half the songs on a debut would be covers. But Love’s take on "Hey Joe" will never be confused for the Byrds or Hendrix. A lot of today’s young bruisers would hit harder with better songs, and a lot of the songs that are waiting to be better are being played by their tour mates.

By Ben Donnelly

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