Ty Segall & White Fence
Label: Drag City
Release Date: April 24th, 2012
When music historians look back on this current 60s lo-fi psychedelic revival, Ty Segall’s Melted and White Fence’s Is Growing Faith will be mentioned as important releases that defined the sound. You can imagine then the excitement behind the announcement that in 2012 White Fence would release a double album, Segall two records, and an eight-track collaboration between Segall and White Fence, Hair, on Drag City. White Fence’s double offering Family Perfume Parts 1 & 2 was the first record sent to us for a full listen and it was an utter disappointment. Overblown, repetitive, unfocused…simply put, it was a twenty-nine track mess that had me re-thinking the potential success of a Segall/White Fence collaboration.
Then came the first listen of Hair and everything was in its right place once again. Scratch that, Hair exceeds my wildest thoughts about this dream team psych match. Unlike Family Perfume Parts 1 & 2, Hair is a twenty-nine minute education on the possibilities of the throw back psych genre and a guided tour of its future. Hair is aggressive, fun, thoughtful, artistic, and most importantly playful. Segall and White Fence are professors of this specific sound and listening to Hair is like being a fly on the wall as the two compare notes.
One of Hair’s greatest strengths is the meticulous way the tracks are put together. The album begins with “Time” which features small, playful cymbal taps that explode into the genre’s famously loud, heavily distorted guitars, only to then return to the tapping and shift into a slow groove, complete with a bending, whiny guitar straight out of the 70s. Segall and White Fence know exactly what the listener expects from them – this opening is their way of informing us that they aren’t afraid to tamper with the sound and keep us on our toes. By the time the slow groove melts back into the loud psych guitars at the three-twenty mark, it’s clear that Hair is music marked by ambition. Think of the words that come to mind when you think of these two acts – words like garage, psych, loud, distorted… Segall and White Fence know these labels well, and proudly adhere to them for moments, but Hair is a demonstration of being able to reach even further, and ultimately, this near-manic cutting of sounds is what moves their genre forward.
The best example of how Hair is remaking the current lo-fi psych sound can be found on the track “Crybaby,” a song that came and went straight through my ears on the first listen. “Crybaby” is a psychedelic rockabilly song that plays on every standard of the 50s genre. Start with a spoken/vocal moment before the song kicks in – check. Have a groove that’s locked in and repetitive from the start – check. The groove, while not changing, moves in a circular motion like the wheels on a train – check. Toward the end of the song, a guitar or piano takes a solo and interrupts the groove – check. It’s short and to the point – check. It has a standard name – check. It’s all there. This isn’t to say that Segall and White Fence should be applauded simply for mimicking a rockabilly song. The true feat is the fact that without analyzing it as such, it could easily be another distorted sound from their back catalogue. I missed it on the first play because it works so well with the rest of the album. Somehow, they paid homage to a sound that doesn’t fit in their spectrum, and still made it completely their own.
The fact that Hair is brief will have many overlooking how much is at work. Segall and White Fence aren’t working track-to-track, they’re working moment-to-moment. Each title features two or three garage movements slammed into each other all at once. “Scissor People,” the record’s opus, exemplifies the genre by injecting a manic personality into the music: bouncy guitars, fuzzy guitars screaming high throughout, and an underlying groove that locks in and lets you know they’re in full control of the madness. Most bands would be content with hitting the high point of sound in their genre, but not Segall and White Fence, who sever the track half way through with distortion bouncing around different channels until pieces of the puzzle click back into another groove entirely, one that eases the listener out of the track. “Scissor People” is the current highpoint for the 60s throwback psych movement, and one of the standout moments on a record that reinvents a genre.
Ty Segall and White Fence are just two names among a growing list of bands/artists looking to chime in with their own interpretations of the 60’s lo-fi psych sound. The genre has a huge fan base and needs a record like Hair to shake the familiarity and boundaries of the sound. In doing so, Segall and White Fence have changed the conversation from how much nostalgia should be borrowed to how far the reinterpreted sound can be pushed to create high art like Hair.