Longtime San Francisco songwriter Ty Segall (who recently defected to LA) is a restless artist, constantly swapping collaborators, instruments, and trying on different genres for size. With his power trio Fuzz, he plays heavy, low-end dirges indebted to Seventies groups like Blue Cheer. Solo or with the Ty Segall Band, he delivers searing garage rock and neo-grunge ballads. But on his new solo album, Sleeper, Segall opts for dark acoustic ballads peppered with emotive strings. He imitates psychedelic folk with mixed results.
Segall is an admirably adventurous songwriter, but he’s not a wordsmith (his lyrics are often cliché, ambiguous, and rely on oohs and ahhs). On the track “Crazy” he rhymes “one” three times in a single verse; “She Don’t Care” repeats the same offense with “today.”
On “6th Street,” he plays sluggish slide guitar and coos about being downtown; it’s a heavy-handed stab at something rootsy, but a spirited solo props the song up. The title track is the album’s — and perhaps Segall’s — most realized track. With its confident vocal phrasing and rich string accompaniment, it sounds like Segall’s new prototype.
But “Sleeper” is the most compelling song of the album; it’s the rest of the songs that inspire drowsiness. It took Segall several attempts to release an exceptional garage album, and his foray into folk will clearly need similar development; his overused rhymes and simple images don’t suffice. (Drag City)