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Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread

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Artist: Ty Segall

Album: Goodbye Bread

Label: Drag City

Review date: Jun. 13, 2011

When Melted came out I remember thinking "great - Ty Segall wrote some slow songs!" Try as I had, all the way back to his time in The Traditional Fools, I’d never been able to fully get behind anything before Melted. It seemed like he had found a way to press the primitive energy of his earlier solo records into the service of real songs - ones with multiple moving parts, changes and hooks. While Melted boasted some undeniable summer pop jams, some of my favorite cuts were the slower, moodier groovers - unexpected developments that suggested a potentially fruitful way out of the limited possibilities of garage-stomp.

Another year goes by, and we have Goodbye Bread, an album that in some ways is precisely what I had hoped for - an album that expands on the vibe of Melted’s slower, meditative side. Any one of these songs could have been standouts in the overall makeup of that record. Here they succeed in producing what is undoubtedly the most cohesive "album" statement Segall has made - a Buick Mackane slowride through the working class neighborhoods of glam, muscle-rock and garage-psych. Segall has referenced The Troggs and T. Rex in recent interviews and recordings, and both serve as key touchstones to the songs here. Much of the album rotates in the same loose groove inhabited by Slider-era T. Rex - boogie-glam balladry as interpreted by a hot-boxed garage band. Which is where The Troggs reference come in. Segall’s fuzztone blasts have always owed something to The Troggs, and the debt is brought to the forefront here. With the gradual dialing-down of the blown-out one-man-band vibe, details that may have been lost before, like guitar leads (and their origins), are brought into more effective relief. While they’ll always be remembered as the band that forever forged the words "Wild" and "Thing" into an inseparable pair, The Troggs actually turned out to be something of a Renaissance band, stretching their reach into sub-genres and levels of craftsmanship untouched by the average garage combo of the day. I mention this because, more so than the music itself, they seem like a model for what Ty Segall is moving toward, and could become.

Could become, because, while Goodbye Bread is a very good record, it’s not a game-changer. But it’s certainly a step in the right direction. I can hear him reaching for something here - going for it in ways that require far more bravery than ripping through a 15-minute set of blown-out garage rippers. Most writers of any stripe will tell you that it’s far more difficult to say something plain and direct, in a way that rings true, than it is to pile up a long-winded list of adjectives and signifiers that add up to a mound of dust. This is the kind of gesture Segall is making - an overture to classic songwriting laid relatively bare, without a production safety net to mask intent. While it’s not exactly like Dylan disassembling his whole singing and playing technique to re-invent his body of work circa-mid-’80’s epiphany (see Bob Dylan Chronicles, Vol. 1), it’s clear that Segall’s lexicon is expanding to a larger canvas - one that signals a deepening understanding and utilization of his chosen form’s history. Though it’s hardly a concept record, the consistent flow and lyrical threads that run through it point to a more considered process than we can assume has been made before. There’s a Kinks-ian sense of provincial storytelling/criticism that runs through the record directed towards the disenchanted suburban California that Segall came of age in - a requiem for souls too dead to even enjoy a cheeseburger in paradise.

Ironically, the thing that initially excited me about this record is also my biggest gripe - it’s almost too much of one thing. Even though the running time is a relatively short-to-average 35 mins or so, it can seem longer. The uniformity of tempo and downer vibes, while holding up the overall stylistic framework of the record, threaten to become a slog at times. Don’t get me wrong - a disproportionate amount of my personal collection is made up of records like this - not a party record, but not exactly Nurse With Wound either. This is the kind of record that will continue to receive spins around my house this season - one that will probably hold up better than anything else he’s done to date - but it isn’t the breakthrough where he overcomes his influences, or at least inhabits them to a level where they become his personal domain. The good news is, Segall is still young, and appears to be moving at an accelerated rate. Each record is better than the one before it. This isn’t something you get to watch every day. This is someone entering his prime, on the cusp of finding a voice. If you aren’t already, the time to pay attention is now.

By Jon Treneff

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