Duncan Boyd once beat a man insensible with a strawberry.
It’s been roughly eight months, which means it’s time for another Ty Segall album. Fresh for 2013, it’s Sleeper, an album that again brings a striking change of pace to the SoCal rocker’s ever-expanding catalogue. Written during an unsettling period, it might be Segall’s most personal music to date. Gone are the sludgy garage rock and distortion. In their stead are acoustic guitars and increasingly delicate melodies.
Understand the circumstances: during the last year, Segall has grappled with the death of his adoptive father, a falling-out with his mother and a move to Los Angeles. So from start to finish, Sleeper feels cathartic — a search for sanity during a turbulent time. “Crazy” addresses the strained relationship with his mother and reveals a songwriting intimacy that Segall had been previously apprehensive towards. The ’60s rock influences remain salient, but the O.C. raised rocker steers closer to a Dylan and Marc Bolan sound, as opposed to the Nuggets-inspired psychedelic thrash. Percussion and electric guitar fuzz are seldom found too. Yet Segall sounds just as comfortable on the acoustic guitar as he did on its electric sibling.
Segall has previously described “the three types of rock and roll musicians.” There’s the primitive, visceral rock and rollers like Iggy Pop and Johnny Rotten. There are the more low-key mysterious types like Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen. Then there the indefinable ones like Neil Young, David Bowie or Jack White, who simultaneously embody the primitive spirit of rock and roll, while also maintaining mystique and with the ability to seamlessly cycle musical genres. These are who Ty Segall looks up to the most.
Segall has mastered the role of the primitive rock and roll performer. With Sleeper, he comes closer realizing his softer enigmatic side, and thereby closer to blending the two roles. With his ambition and work ethic, it seems likely that Segall may one day boast a legacy of musical malleability like the aforementioned rock icons. After all, he’s just 26, with a dauntingly prolific discography under his rhinestone belt. 2012 alone saw him release three full-length albums. There was Hair, a collaboration with Tim Presley (aka White Fence), where Segall explored the depths of 1960s psychedelic folk-rock. There was the “evil space rock” of Slaughterhouse that showcased Segall’s much heavier side. Then there was Twins, in which Segall shifted once more towards fuzzed-out, breakneck glam rock.
But on Sleeper, Segall explicitly shows that he has no intentions of being pinned down to a single niche. Any feelings of being overwhelmed by the sprawl can be quickly dispelled — each record brings new twists and interesting original riffs on traditional sounds. What’s most important is the quality control remains impressively high. If there’s anyone left sleeping, they won’t be for much longer. And for now, we have a new and very good Ty Segall album to bump until his next awakening.