After years of recording mediocre music with different garage rock bands, including The Epsilons, Party Fowl and The Traditional Fools, California native Ty Segall stepped out on his own, releasing three solo records and a handful of EPs over a two year period. Up to that point, all of Segall's offerings were sloppy, poorly recorded garage pop; then, in 2010 came the far more controlled (though still lo-fi) Melted, a record that, before the end of the year, had established a devout following for Segall. The record did well enough that Drag City Records signed Segall, recently releasing his fifth studio album, Goodbye Bread, to much anticipation.
The sound here is still garage-friendly, though with each release Segall takes small steps towards accessibility, the result here being a very consistent, very cool 10-song record that should sit well with fans of current bands like The Strange Boys, The Black Lips, King Kahn and the late Jay Reatard while also offering a retro sound appealing to fans of classic artists like The Sonics, The Standells and even Paul Revere & the Raiders. Segall's ever-growing embrace of melody can be heard instantly, on opened "Goodbye Bread," a dreamy, fuzzy ballad with stoner overtones. Where Segall used to play fast and ferocious, he here seems like a slacker John Lennon fan, more interested in everyday life than revolution.
Despite having much cleaner production than Melted or anything before Melted, Goodbye Brea is still a lo-fi work that features reverb-drench vocals and sloppy 60s riffs. Segall's vocals are welcoming in a way that serves his growing interest in pop appeal. And, like it or not, Segall does have quite a bit of interest in 60s and 70s pop, not unlike a Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain-era Stephen Malkmus. Standout "My Head Explodes" is a great mix of the old and new, kicking faster, louder and clunkier than most of the rest of the album while still paying much attention to structure and melody. The hooks come big and often, dominating many of the songs with their repetition. So no, this isn't an artistic triumph as much as it is a slacker stab at commercial appeal, not unlike that second White Stripes album, De Stijl, was back in early naughts. As much as I do miss those blasts of feedback and noise, I can't help but love songs like "Where Your Head Goes" and "You Make the Sun Fry," which play by the rules in the coolest way possible while still employing those sweet stoner riffs that remind of the best 60s garage bands.
Just as de facto garage revival leader Jay Reatard was hitting it big, he passed on. I wondered, following his passing, if the emerging garage trend would tail off, as grunge did following the death of Kurt Cobain. Didn't happen. In fact, one could argue that garage rock is as big as ever right now, with artists like The Blacks Lips, Wavves, King Khan and Those Darlins all selling big and owning festival stages. With the one-two punch of Melted and Goodbye Bread, two great records, I get the feeling that Segall is edging his way towards the throne. With Bread, he's turned the noise down and cranked up the hooks, begging us to believe that, garage apathy or not, this dude is stepping up to the poster boy plate (let is not forget that Segall is from the OC and even hung with some of those famous dopes back in high school). After hearing this great new record, I can't think of a better candidate for the job, save for maybe Wavves' Nathan Williams or even Kurt Vile, who kinda/sorta fits the mold. For me, with the excellent Goodbye Bread, garage pop is all about one man right now: Ty Segall.
UPDATE: After spending months listening to this album, it's become a real beast of a disc. Maybe even my favorite record of 2011.
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