Ty Segall’s Singles 2007-2010 seems to exist largely to save fans the trouble of independently tracking down various out-of-print cassettes, 7-inches and rarities recorded post-Epsilons, pre-Goodbye Bread. Modest utilitarian aims notwithstanding, what emerges is a kind of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Punk, revealing an even less polished side of the artfully-mussed rocker in the early stages of a career that’s still very much a work in progress.
Beginning with “Where We Go” -- a terse, claustrophobic number from Segall’s “one man band” phase whose only decipherable lyric rhymes the title with “I don’t know” — we get a lightly edited, nonlinear ramble through four year’s worth of material.
Taken as a whole, it’s overwhelming. Only one Singles track tops three minutes, and many blow by at a breakneck pace, suggesting a desire to cram the maximum amount of music into the minimum amount of recorded space-time. Two discs and 54 minutes of the stuff is tough to digest in one sitting, and otherwise strong tunes get lost in the cavalcade of murky thrashing.
Singles isn’t a compilation to welcome the uninitiated or convert the skeptical. But for those well-acquainted and patient enough to orient themselves in the thicket of Segall’s brief but dense back catalog, there’s plenty of material to trawl through: few big surprises, but lots of entertaining diversions. “Caesar” closes with a full minute of demented piano soloing. A demo version of “The Drag” offers a stripped-down, drum machine-powered rearrangement that more aptly captures the song’s titular dance-as-grudge-match. A beefed-up, bassier “Dating” takes the original to exhilarating new heights. Throwaway goofs like “Fuzzy Cat” may have been better left to the dustbin of history, while quirky one-offs like “No No” suggest an alternate history where Segall goes ultra-minimalist surf-punk, a la The Intelligence. Energetic but straight-laced covers of the Chain Gang’s “Son of Sam,” Thee Oh Sees’ “Maria Stacks,” Simply Saucer’s “Bullet Proof Nothing” and the Gories’ “I Think I’ve Had It” read like elaborate mash notes to the stars of Segall’s nostalgia-hound sound world.
In the wake of 2011’s Goodbye Bread — some of Segall’s most developed and coherent work to date — it’s interesting, albeit bewildering, to take stock of the recent past and its accordant rabbit holes and growing pains. Where is he going with all this? In the eternally teenage world of capital-R Rock’n’Roll, Segall seems to be growing not so much up as outward and sideways into a deeper, mellower brand of youthful snottiness. The kid’s still a cipher, a skilled mimic whose carefully-curated cultural references are both revealing and weirdly self-effacing.
While Singles 2007-2010 doesn’t do much to support the hypothesis, I still want to believe there’s more to this guy than charm, chops and a great record collection. His poses don’t yet feel fully inhabited, but there’s a consistent joy to his performance that’s impossible to fake.