Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: The (Ex-)Cult of GØGGS

Dirty Shoes takes a look at the sort of Ty Segall & Co's super group, GØGGS.
By    August 9, 2016

goggs

Douglas Martin’s go to junkyard is in Burbank.

People who don’t regularly listen to the type of music covered by my shoes (which mostly really are caked in grime and dirt and spilled beer and a variety of bodily fluids I’d rather not disclose) will tell you GØGGS is yet another entry in the endless cavalcade of Ty Segall side-projects, but they are essentially a supergroup. Its front-line personnel include Chris Shaw of Ex-Cult (currently the best punk band in Memphis not named Nots) on vocals, Charles Moothart of the criminally undervalued Charlie and the Moonhearts (Exhibit A, for your consideration), and Segall, who you definitely haven’t heard of if you’ve been reading this site since 2010 (and for that we apologize).

This is a trio who has collaborated in some combination for most of the decade: Segall produced Ex-Cult’s outstanding debut full-length, Moothart has been collaborating with Segall for years, most notably knocking on the door of critical acclaim with their albums as FUZZ and with Moothart serving as the ringer guitarist on Ty Segall Band’s instant classic Slaughterhouse. If you are of the opinion that those Segall-adjacent projects are the greatest work he’s done as a musician, chances are the self-titled debut of GØGGS will sit very nicely on your 2016 year-end list. They’re part Ex-Cult (we’ll get to that in a second), part the Germs, part Black Flag, but mostly blood and mucus and a good number of those other unmentionable bodily fluids staining my espadrilles.

Chris Shaw has the kind of voice most hardcore punk singers wish they had: precise in rhythm, authoritative, and mean. His bark is clearly the driving force of the album, as the grinding guitar noise of opener “Falling In” makes way for the pulse of the ’80s Los Angeles hardcore pushing the song forward. It is Shaw’s half-intelligible shouts that serve as the foundation. As far as SST-indebted quasi-hardcore side-projects go, these guys should probably go on tour with Randy Randall’s band Rat Fist for maximum impact.

In fact, as expertly played as they are, a few selections on the album sound so indebted to Shaw’s vocal presence, they sound a little like Ex-Cult demos. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a problem per se—as implied earlier, Ex-Cult is one of the best things going in garage-punk right now—but songs like “Shotgun Shooter,” “Smoke the Würm,” “Needle Tradeoff,” and lead single “She Got Harder,” are tough to differentiate from most of Ex-Cult’s self-titled album; and it’s not like Segall or Moothart would have much trouble serving as guest musicians on any of the band’s releases.

Mile markers on the album where the band diverts from formula and make things jarringly, uncomfortably weird is where the highest level of the album’s success comes from. “Final Notice,” which features vocals from Denée Petracek of VIAL, contains Segall’s best drumming on the album (ironically enough, as it gradually devolves into a near-arrhythmic mess) and synths sounding like confrontational alarm clocks and machines regurgitating on themselves, buzzing and whirring all over the song.

The menacing ascent of the bassline on the intro of the album’s self-titled track (which, by extension, would be the band’s self-titled track) is made even more menacing when the tempo is sped up, while “Assassinate the Doctor” is very likely the darkest song ever recorded with the assistance of Party City noisemakers and laser sound effects.

Album closer “Glendale Junkyard” jumps from a stalking pace to a punk half-sprint and back seemingly on a dime, all gnashing guitars whose strings are as speckled with mangled flesh and dried blood as Abdullah the Butcher’s fork. Regardless of the album being split between a pervasive weirdness and thrilling shifts in structure and its tendency to traverse material Ex-Cult has already done better, there is a sense of urgency stinging the nerves that run throughout GØGGS which highlights the enormous talents of the individuals who play on the album. That’s a pretty essential component when you are seeking to record visceral punk music.