Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
On the second of three releases scheduled for 2012 garage rock prodigy Ty Segall brings the full band in a notably heavier, faster and punkier take on the genre. Slaughterhouse follows not only last year’s breakout record Goodbye Bread but Segall’s collaboration with White Fence, Hair, in April. It’s worth mentioning that the band also includes Mikal Cronin who released his own solid, garagey throwback record last year.
Opener ‘Death’ begins with a minute of feedback before a dense, scuzzy wall of guitars kicks in. The guitar tone and Segall’s reverb-slathered vocals give it a stoner rock feel, like Kyuss were as pissed off as The Stooges. A couple of rocky leads and throat shredding screams fly the flag for Slaughterhouse as an album of excess. The tracks are still snappy and catchy but the band weren’t bothered about trimming solos or taking things out of the mix. ‘I Bought My Eyes’ continues in this vein. It’s got one of Segall’s multi-tracked vocal hooks but it’s every bit as unhinged as the opener. Even the lengthy guitar solo works because of the manic performances. It’s not a jam band record though it’s convincing enough as a collection of improvised takes on garage rock to drive the record to its conclusion. Even the tracks that foreground the early 60s melodic side of Segall’s songwriting and his best Lennon impression like ‘Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart’ or the doo-wop harmonies on ‘Muscle Man’ are painted with malevolence.
When everything’s turned up to eleven and the vocals are at their most deranged Slaughterhouse is undoubtedly one of the most compelling records of Segall’s career. Even when the songs themselves aren’t as well-crafted as Goodbye Bread’s the difference is made up through intensity. Aside from The Stooges, parts of the album might remind you of the faster tracks on Nirvana’s In Utero like ‘Tourette’s’, but with the dense, murky recording quality of Bleach.
For all its venom and vitriol sometimes what you’re hearing isn’t a thousand miles from some of what The White Stripes were putting out a decade ago. The difference is Segall’s lot don’t mix their influences with crafted self-awareness or a calculated aesthetic. It means that Slaughterhouse falls on the right side of pastiche and its sound doesn’t necessarily have a “look”. Segall isn’t here to save rock ‘n roll, he’s not leading a return to form for the genre, he’s playing some punk tunes.
That might come across a bit disingenuous considering Segall is obviously a guy with one hand on throat of the past and the other on its genitalia, yet urgency and pop-craft are the defining characteristics of Slaughterhouse rather than its place as a capital R Rock Album. In 2012 we don’t need that. It’s been eleven years since Is This It and twenty-one since Nevermind – era-defining returns to form for the genre are now miserable enough as concepts let alone as albums. Don’t get me wrong, Ty Segall still has a long way to walk up a very beige street before there’s any risk of mass appeal, but for all the rock signifiers on show Slaughterhouse is not that kind of album.
It’s true that not every single moment lands perfectly; tracks three and four, ‘Slaughterhouse’ and ‘The Tongue’, carry the dark vibe of the album and have a bit of fun outside of the hookier tunes that surround them but are ultimately forgettable. But ‘Wave Goodbye’, probably the closest thing Slaughterhouse has to a single, throws the biggest riff on the record as its chorus, and despite being reminiscent of hundreds of fuzzy, overdriven guitar songs you’ve heard, it’s still testament to how visceral and thrilling this shit is when it’s done right. And just before the slightly overlong wall of feedback closer ‘Fuzz War’ kicks in ‘That’s the Bag I’m In’, ‘Diddy Wah Diddy’, and ‘Mary Ann’ threaten to derail themselves completely while Ty screams like a madman.
Whether or not the inclusion of Ty saying “Fuck yeah” and “I don’t know what we’re doing” at the end of certain tracks was rehearsed I don’t know, but chaos was clearly the ghostwriter of Slaughterhouse. Even if it is more spontaneous than Goodbye Bread or Hair this album was clearly made by musicians that know their business well enough that most of what they throw at the wall would stick. And if Ty Segall threw himself off a 23 storey building you can be sure he’d land on someone’s Ferrari.