Ty Segall,

Where have you been all my life? Like many East siders, I loath to admit when something so ripe has passed me by. I confess. I did not know much of anything about you. But then I caught that shreddy Morning Becomes Eclectic set, and it kinda blew my hair back. Then everything started coming up Ty Segall.

I heard “Feel” on the radio. A discussion panelist at Girlschool mentioned you. My friend had given me a gift certificate to Amoeba Music for Christmas. There it sat in my glove box, so I went and picked up Ty Segall, because it’s out on Drag City so streaming, as you know, isn’t likely. Ok, I’m up for this game, especially because my car’s primary functioning music delivery system is its blessed CD player. I pray it never breaks because I’m not sure there would be anyone to fix it.

So I’ve been driving around for a week listening to your new self-titled LP. I latched on to those Beatles-meet-Wilco moments first. That’s because I wasn’t ready yet for the neighboring kicks in the nuts. I don’t own a jean jacket. I’m a garage rock and punk dilettante, ok?? I’m sorry.
(Cc: DRA)

But then that release in the chorus of “Freedom” surreptitiously got under my skin. I started repeating the song, one play right after another on my otherwise deathly commute. “I’m getting closer to the medicine.”

Late at night when I should have been sleeping, I was looking at your Wikipedia page and marveling at your “career accomplishments.” You’ve been in eight bands. You aren’t even 30 yet. I haven’t been on a stage since mandatory choir practice in the 7th grade. Perusing your seemingly endless discography made me feel weak, a dreaded newbie. But I pressed on.

Then that creepy ass video for “Thank God for Sinners” creeped me out proper, in the way that the Wonka tunnel scene once did (and still does). Similar to a bunch of your songs, it accessed unexplored corners of my musical soul. “You’re not supposed to like this stuff,” one insecure part of my conscience said, trying to bat away the activation of something dark, new, and different.

Finally, Saturday, February 4th arrived. I packed up my notebook and went to the Teragram Ballroom to cede the Union. And then you rode in like goddamn Ulysses S. Grant to Appomattox. And that’s when things got ridiculous.

First of all, the house music of Chuck Berry’s “Havana Moon,” then Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia,” and ending with “We’re an American Band”? Now, I didn’t know if you had anything to do with this playlist. I didn’t even care, but I knew some shit was about to go down. And then when I saw the excess ends of your guitar strings left uncut and hanging off the knobs on the head of your guitar, I could really start to smell where this night was going.

The first two songs mimicked the familiar start of Ty Segall. I immediately and undeservedly felt in the know. I stood in the GA crowd like everyone else, but still I reached for a seat belt during “Break a Guitar.” Then I ducked at the blistering spray of machine gun electric guitar.

What was the third song? The only lyric I managed to scrawl in my book was “before you,” and that was before you dropped the thing in to a Petty/Allman/Crowes crucible via a wonderfully melodic jam. A shirtless guy was crowd surfing. I’ve never done that either, but I’m glad he did.

I took note of how while most of The Freedom Band gesticulated wildly in unison, Ben Boye sat behind the keys in his 1970s substitute teacher “that’s Mr. Hunter S. Thompson to you kids” blazer and tie combo.

“Finger” was great, but is it truly about your dog? There was a very fast and frenetic Clash-y song that I did not recognize, but wish that I did. I hung on every stop/start in “Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)” and during the demented slow down leading in to each chorus. The fun house keys reminded me of The Doors, and when the song reprised “Freedom,” I about lost my fucking mind.

“Ghost” sounded like it unintentionally borrowed those G/C’s from “Quinn the Eskimo,” “Prince Caspian,” or even “Angel from Montgomery.” I heard another reprise of sorts in the Zappa-esque jam of “I Am With You” and strains of other multi-dimensional contemporary live warriors, White Denim and DIIV. I might be wrong about these comparisons, and I guess you’d be ok with that, because you seemed like a prettay prettay laid back dude up there.

Thinking back through all of the psychedelia, surfer punk, and monstrously angular guitar solos, I remember how you climaxed so many songs with your back arched so far back. I don’t know how you managed to keep playing accurately. Rock ‘n roll, I suppose.

A great deal of the night was unfamiliar to me. I manically scrawled notes trying to relate your art to that which is familiar or to steal a lyric for later research. But falling down a rabbit hole like I did can lead to the best nights. I know that it won’t be long ’til I’m at another show, thinking, “Dammmn, this guy is taking it to that Ty Segall place.”

That “new” song in the encore absolutely channeled the deliberate slow roast of Neil Young’s “Cortez the Killer,” that I am sure of. But I don’t remember hearing this one on Ty Segall? I’m gonna go try to find it online.

Respectfully yours,

Kyle B. Smith