“Prolific” is one of the first words that come to mind when you mention Ty Segall. The 27-year-old San Francisco native has established himself as garage rock royalty by cranking out a steady stream of bracing, hard-bitten albums that occasionally come off as raw, unedited portraits of a wunderkind doing his thing. It’s as if there’s a mainline between Segall’s musical imagination and the proverbial tape – niceties like production are by and large eschewed in favour of capturing in-the-moment magic. With the fact that Segall’s most recent release, Manipulator, took over a year to be released makes it something of an anomaly in his catalogue. For once, his work sounds deliberate, well-produced, and polished. However, he obliterated any subtleties during his performance at The Danforth Music Hall on September 21st as Segall and his band delivered a blunt force trauma inducing set that exposed the raw proto-punk DNA beneath the glammy sheen of Manipulator.
As deep as Segall’s catalogue is, he built his set around songs from his last album, and as their cowboy behatted manager introduced them, who also joined the band on keys for the opening number, “Manipulator”, Segall unleashed squalls of fuzz and feedback while singing lines like “I use your telephone/To sneak inside your home” while The Doors-influenced, carnival-like organ vamp coiled around the tune like a techno-paranoid boa constrictor.
The last time Segall was in town was with Fuzz, one of his many side projects. On that occasion Segall mostly stuck to drumming duties as the band unleashed thick slabs of Sabbath-worshipping riffs. This time around, Segall was back on the guitar and vocals, with Mikal Cronin on bass, Emily Rose-Epstein on drums, and Fuzz member Charles Moothart on guitar. Together, the band explored a particularly rich vein of rock n’ roll: the cusp of classic Zeppelin bombast and early Bowie glam, if that music was sandblasted with the scuzzy textures of Raw Power-era Stooges.
This formula worked extremely well in a live setting during songs like “Feel” and “Tall Man Skinny Lady”. They built the former song around a Zeppelin-like gallop, with Segall’s plaintive bleat venturing into a Lennon-like falsetto, while the latter swung with the slashing, destructive gravity of a wrecking ball. The common denominator for most of the set was the huge, fuzzed out tones that Segall coaxed out of his rig, decimated by the Fuzz War pedal that Segall favours.
While the songs on his latest album are generally set to a steady simmer, Segall’s show at the was more like a raging forest fire that often threatened to get out of control. While fans are still out about the band’s scorched earth tactics however; as exhilarating and cathartic as the show was, the nuances that make Manipulator such a rewarding listen were largely lost in the mix. What Segall and his band are doing in their current incarnation however, is interesting. While traditionally glam and punk rock have often been regarded as aesthetically diametral, Segall’s live act revealed the grizzled sinews that bind these genres together.