Ty Segall is his own worst enemy. The California-based multi-instrumentalist put out his eponymous debut record in 2008, and since then, he hasn’t stopped releasing material. Between live records, EPs, LPs, and collaborations, his discography is already massive, and his next record Emotional Mugger is slated for release in early 2016. Segall’s problem, though, is that much of this material sounds very similar. It’s good that as an artist, he has pinpointed his sound, but this prevents many of releases from breaking through the noise (no pun intended) and sounding distinct. Segall’s latest release, a cover album of T. Rex songs titled Ty Rex, struggles with this issue.
The source material certainly isn’t helping, either. The lo-fi brand of 60’s worshipping garage rock that Segall pumps out on a regular basis is already very grounded in the likes of Black Sabbath and The Who, so to directly cover a band that perfectly fits within this subsection of rock music puts this record at even more of a disadvantage. Fortunately, one of the (many) technological advantages Ty can employ that T. Rex couldn’t is heavy production effects, and he uses them well. The guitars and vocals screech with just the perfect amount of noise and distortion, underscored by frantic, heavy drums and bass. “Elemental Child,” the longest track on the album, is perfect evidence of this; it starts off very controlled, with just Ty singing over his guitar. Gradually, over the course of six minutes, the dynamic rises and rises just before delving into total sonic chaos. This is where Ty Segall is at his finest.
The production also does wonders for the overall aesthetic and feel of the album, which are fairly spot on. Even though the songs themselves and their structures feel very “classic rock,” the production techniques and Segall’s very apparent passion for the music elevate these adaptations beyond mere covers. The record maintains an air of homage without copying, which is an easy pitfall to succumb to.
Unexpectedly, though, one of the areas in which this LP falls short is energy. This hasn’t really been a problem for Ty in this past; his excellent 2012 release with the Ty Segall Band, Slaughterhouse, is a gem in his discography and a perfect example of what he can achieve with a few guitars and a love for rock and roll music. Those moments do come through here; “20th Century Boy” is as easy to mosh to as the fastest, loudest tunes on his past albums. Ty shrieks and wails while his band goes completely insane, and it’s easily the most fun track on Ty Rex. But then, there’s tracks like “The Slider,” which rambles over the course of a few minutes, and the singing and instrumentation feel thrown to the side in favor of the authentic production style.
Over the course of the album, this happens a few times; certain tracks feel so much weaker than others. The opening cut, “Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart,” is too lethargic to open up what could easily be described as a “garage-punk” record. Here, as on a few others, the song picks up pace with a remarkable guitar solo, but this isn’t always enough. Possibly the least interesting track, “Cat Black,” is completely boring. The song itself certainly isn’t a highlight of T. Rex’s, and it shows in Ty’s performance. The singing is barely audible, and the band wearily trudges along beneath a wall of effects. You’d think “20th Century Boy” was played by an entirely different band.
For all of it’s faults, though, Ty Rex still manages to impress with it’s feel and charm. Ty isn’t exactly being too adventurous, but he manages to come through with a solid effort. I just wish this had felt a little more worked-on; much of the track listing comes off as slightly un-finished, or aimless. That being said, it’s clear that Ty wanted to pay tribute to one of his idols, and he certainly accomplished that while still being entertaining.
Written by Preston Fulks