The Lowdown: There’s a line tucked away deep inside Ty Segall’s latest record, First Taste, that pretty much sums up the seasoned garage guru’s approach to making music. “I sing my song and sound like me,” he sings on “I Sing Them”. He goes on to punctuate that sentiment with an exclamation point, insisting that he’d “rather sing like me than try to sing your melody.” More than a decade into a career that has seen him take on various musical styles alongside countless collaborators, Segall has developed the iron-clad confidence to be himself. There is no idea too wayward or lofty for him to explore, and First Taste is, more than anything, a testament to how free Segall feels to entertain his creative whims. It’s also a record that further proves just how fun he is to listen to when he’s let off his leash.
The Good: On First Taste, Segall somehow manages to make a record nestled snuggly within his musical wheelhouse while working pretty far outside of his comfort zone. He made the record without the services of an electric guitar, preferring instead to let synthesizers and a whole host of others instruments from mandolins, bells, and whistles to Greek and Japanese stringed instruments do the heavy lifting. And while the idea of Segall working without a guitar sounds akin to robbing an infant of its blanket, First Taste is still quintessential Segall: shaggy, tripped out, and all over the sonic map. From one song to the next, he leapfrogs between brash stoner rock (“Taste”, “The Fall”) and more tempered songs that find him in a more meditative place (“Fear is waking up in a bad dream, thinking of a family,” he sings on “The Arms”). That makes for a certain lack of flow, but it also keeps listeners on their toes.
The Bad: Experimentation rules the day on First Taste, and as such there are lulls and dead spots to be found. “Ice Plant” leans a little too liberally on Beach Boys-inspired harmonies while “When I met my Parents Parts 1 and 3” (no Part 2) can only be described as filler. For all the cool tricks Segall packs in on First Taste, it’s not perfect.
The Verdict: First Taste is scatterbrained and self-indulgent, no doubt. But that’s also what makes it such heady fun. Segall once again makes the various ideas and sounds floating about in his head something worth listening to. Even when things don’t quite stick, Segall deserves credit for the attempt. Few artists out there are so committed to pushing the boundaries, and that daredevil spirit once again keeps Segall healthily afloat.
Essential Tracks: “Taste”, “The Arms”, and “I Sing Them”