Perhaps it’s meek to discuss Graham Greene’s short story “The Destructors” in the context of Ty Segall’s latest LP, Slaughterhouse — or, maybe it’s just too obvious. Whatever the case, it feels necessary to stress every teenager’s favorite ideology that “destruction is a form of creation,” because if this suitcase of noise is anything to behold (and it is), it’s the idea that beating the shit out of an instrument has never sounded so enlightening. Over 11 tracks, the Bay Area player tickles the inner demon in all of us with melodic screams that exorcise multiple corpses of tangled guitar strings. It’s a loud, abrasive record that, in the end, feels pretty damn inspiring.
It’s all momental, though. Since Segall refuses to hit cruise control, Slaughterhouse peaks in segments, offering glimpses of raucous respite that sport shiny handlebars to clutch. The minute and 30 seconds of its title track essentially summarize the record’s entirety. There’s this swanky-yet-crunchy surf’s side edge that’s quickly wrapped in a foil of screams and rusty percussion. Running with that logic, Segall rarely opens the door to let the light in, opting to remain in the dark shadow of his sickly ominous fuzz. But that’s his style; he’s the yin to Mikal Cronin’s yang. And it’s important to note Cronin, as not only is he one of the three members that make up the Ty Segall Band, but there’s also something to learn from his style that’s so similar and yet so different than Segall’s. Whereas Cronin cast out hook after hook on his self-titled debut LP last year, Segall counters that by bellying his melodies, lines, and hooks under a thick, grimy layer of pure, unadulterated chaos.
Take the “L.A. Woman”-like build up of album opener “Death”, then pin that next to its accompanying buzzsaw solo towards the end. Or skate ahead to the muddy march of “Wave Goodbye”, where Segall sounds like he’s singing behind a mic positioned in the late ’60s, perhaps a sign that he’s still not done with the era after aping Donovan and similar ilk on Hair, his recent collaborative LP with White Fence. Later on, he disassembles old ’45s by Eric Burdon & The Animals and adds the swirl and whirl fuzz of The Melvins to create the closest thing to a pop track here with “That’s the Bag I’m In”. Actually, to be fair, Segall flirts with pop on a number of areas here, especially on ”Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart”, where he answers the question: “Hey, what would Chuck Berry sound like if he was born in Detroit and spent his 20s in the ’70s?”
That’s the thing, though. Despite its foreboding title, which recalls a number of NES titles and that one Vonnegut classic, the LP isn’t very terrifying. Even when Segall attempts to pen a stoner rock anthem like “The Tongue”, it’s hit with a scruffy bad stomach virus of melody that keeps it grounded in reality. It all sounds dangerous and creepy, but it moves at a pace that’s quite amicable for tapping — there’s a reason for that. Segall musically lights up one match after another, extinguishing them with a swift boot to the pavement. Punchy tracks like “Muscle Man”, “Mary Ann”, “Diddy Wah Diddy”, and the title track keep this beast from biting too hard and with any excess. When it finally reaches the ten minute-plus clusterfuck that is “Fuzz War”, a proper candidate for this year’s most appropriately titled track, it all feels deserved or fitting. Because, really, there’s no better way to end this album.
There isn’t a whole lot of blood in Slaughterhouse, but it is a thrill ride, and an exhausting one at that. While Segall is far more relentless here than on last year’s Goodbye Bread, it’s at a unique form. There’s a thoughtless nature to it that suggests he’s having far more fun than any of its aural madness implies. In fact, if we’re to take the title to heart, then perhaps it’s insinuating that this “slaughterhouse” means nothing more than the room they created this in. This would be fitting, considering that Segall makes little to no attempt to hide that this was all recorded live. At one point, right when “Diddy Wah Diddy” finishes, he screams, “I don’t know what we’re doing!” That’s no doubt a destructive method to writing, but did we learn nothing from Graham Greene?
Essential Tracks: “Death”, “That’s the Bag I’m In”, and “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart”
Feature artwork by Cap Blackard.