Douglas Martin prefers sourdough bread above all.
In my Pitchfork review of his cover of GG Allin’s “Don’t Talk to Me,” I referred to Ty Segall as “the heir apparent to the garage-punk throne.” Others have called him “the next Jay Reatard”. Due for a crossover. A major crossover. A Kurt Cobain-like crossover? C’mon. But no matter how you slice it, the vast majority of indie-rock fans have very high hopes for the 23-year-old guitar slinger. And for good reason. Ever since he started recording under his own name in 2008, he’s had a remarkable run of releases, including but not limited to some stellar 2009 output: the garage-rock stomp of Lemons, the martial, assaultive noise of his Mikal Cronin collaboration, Reverse Shark Attack, and a split-single with Thee Oh Sees, where he contributes a delightfully shambolic cover of their “Maria Stacks”.
As good as the prior output was, Segall’s significantly improved in 2010. Last year’s Melted was not only far and away Segall’s best album, but one that justified his swift rise to the top of a music scene that was given a massive spate of attention last year (it’s scientifically proven that 78.5% of that attention came from yours truly), launching him in a spot next to Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer, a teenage hero of Segall’s, who wore the needle out on Coachwhips records in high school. To say Melted was a barnburner would be kind of an understatement. The album’s energy was kinetic in all sorts of different ways: visceral (“Finger”), pulsating (“Girlfriend,” “Imaginary Person”), gleefully destructive (“My Sunshine”). It’s precisely the type of breakthrough record you’d expect from an artist on the tongue of almost every tinnitus-addled rock fan dwelling America’s shitty basement venues.
Then, word started to spread that Melted‘s follow-up was going to be– gasp– a “serious singer/songwriter record“. Soon after, Segall confirmed it himself. Feverish anticipation didn’t subside, though; fans were on pins and needles while trying to figure out what the forthcoming album was going to sound like. Though it would be easy for anything Segall could have come up with to be less fun than Melted, I can happily confirm that Goodbye Bread is no XO. Not by a long shot.
After the slow-burning, Lennon-esque title-track– pensive enough to justify the album’s purported seriousness– “California Commercial” jolts you into place, where each line sung by Segall feels like an exclamation, punctuated by the bashing drums and thwacked guitar chords. In what feels like a reaction to the mass descent upon his beloved city, Segall exclaims, “Stay in California! / Never go outside! / Things, they aren’t too nice, here! / Stay until you die!” A few bars later, he approaches love and domestication with a childlike playfulness, “Will you marry me? / You can be my wife! / I’ll have lots of money!”
After a twitchy, jittery guitar solo, “Comfortable Home (A True Story)” leisurely bounces into a household scene, where Segall has a relationship epiphany while furniture shopping, crystallizing into the romantic hook, “I would like to buy you a comfortable home.” By the next song, Segall is planning a future: “Sit down in the garden some / And you could go and meet my mom / We could sit there all day long.” In the months where a person’s mid-20’s is rapidly approaching, we’re usually settling into our first long-term, adult relationships, where we think about moving in with our significant others; positioning couches and hanging art in the walkways. With Segall’s basement grit not being replaced by studio gloss, Goodbye Bread is not so much a “serious” effort as a mature one. Ty Segall is growing up before our very eyes, and it’s so lovely that I might need a box of tissues to get through the rest of this review.
Just like the crunchy chords and Captain Beefheart cover on Lemons, Goodbye Bread showcases Segall’s love for classic rock. Both Neil Young and British Invasion-style rock songwriting permeate throughout the record, and spiraling solos are fired off on nearly every song. “You Make the Sun Fry” is the rare tune that makes the term “dad-rock” sound a lot cooler than it actually is, while bluesy closer “Fine” could have just as easily come from 1968 as 2011. In addition, the spirit of Nirvana– a band that liked classic rock more than they were willing to admit– flows through the undercurrent of “My Head Explodes,” which manages to fuse a Cobain-style chord progression with the wailing, hair-raising finish to their cover of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” and Segall’s own “Finger”. Cobain himself would likely be pretty impressed with the ethereal harmonies applied to the hook of grungy standout “Where Your Head Goes”.
Segall tinkers with the song structure on a few Goodbye Bread tunes as well, largely eschewing the verse-chorus-verse format to allow the songs to stretch out, sometimes riding the hook to the end, switching the tempo, cutting out of the song abruptly, or faking us out with long pauses, like he does on “The Floor”. Only lead single “I Can’t Feel It” is this executed underwhelmingly, where the song’s sluggish pace and unspectacular hook being pushed to the end provides the album’s only skip-worthy moment.
Penultimate track “I am With You” comes close to embodying the seriousness that has become a buzzword attached to this album, where Segall airs a list of grievances that grow more misanthropic as the song progresses, singing, “I’m sick of the man, I’m sick of the dog / I’m sick of the place with the fucking fog,” the couplet’s last line either detailing a very relatable sense of wanderlust or aggravation towards watching trendspotters raise the cost-of-living in his beloved city. After finding Segall at his most nihilistic (“I’m sick of you, I’m sick of me / I’m sick of everything I can see”), the tempo change brings a sense of reassurance: “Don’t you know, I am with you?” Once the song is slowed down again, Segall brandishes some bluesy guitar work, right before applying a heavy amount of art-damage. After the Saturday night bluster of “I am With You,” “Fine” plays like the relaxed Sunday morning, once again adopting blues-rock to provide a romantic sentiment: “Oh, you know I love / Lovin’ is what I do”. And that’s where it becomes apparent that Goodbye Bread serves as a goodbye to post-adolescence and a salutation to real-life adulthood, as Segall straddles the line between the tantrum of the former and the romance of the latter, just like any reasonable twentysomething. It will be interesting to see where growing up takes him next.
MP3: Ty Segall-“You Make the Sun Fry”