For better or worse, Ty Segall lacks a filter. The San Francisco garage rocker has released a head-spinning five albums in the last two years, some under his own name and others as one-off side projects or collaborations, all while touring nonstop.
To call Segall prolific would be a comic understatement. Even so, none of the albums can be described as high stakes – Segall’s oeuvre ranges from shaggy psych-rock to Black Sabbath-indebted punk, two poles not exactly known for technical proficiency or world-conquering statements.
Segall is part of a larger trend of endlessly touring, constantly recording garage acts, many of which are tangentially connected to Segall himself. Frequent tour-mates Thee Oh Sees have released at least one record a year since 2007, and onetime studio-mate White Fence has put out four albums in the past three years. Burger Records, an Orange County-based label who recently released Segall’s entire discography on cassette, specializes in cheaply produced tapes of a seemingly endless stable of catchy, but mostly interchangeable, garage bands. I could continue – all I’d need to do is open my iTunes.
It’s easy to frame this can’t-sit-still career path as an economic necessity. Touring has become an act’s main source of income, and niche musicians are choosing to avoid day jobs by avoiding going home. However, frequently gigging in the same cities requires an unceasing stream of new material, and as a result, studio experimentation and complex songwriting have fallen to the wayside. Long gestation periods between albums are a thing of the past, thus hampering entire careers with the dangers of the sophomore slump (i.e. acts have their whole lives to write a debut and a year to follow it up).
Yet, trends are typically coupled with reactionary trends, and today’s quick and dirty approach to songwriting and production has coincided with the seemingly inexplicable cult resurgence of legacy act Fleetwood Mac. Starting in 2011, three separate record labels have slowly reissued the seminal soft rock band’s ’70s work, followed by a world tour this year.
Still, once-popular musicians regularly stage comebacks to take advantage of their now-grown-up fans’ spending power, but Fleetwood Mac’s reappearance was not thought up in a Warner Bros. boardroom. Rather, indie rock acts appear to have led this latest wave of popularity.
Garage girl group revivalists Best Coast have frequently cited the act as an influence, and last year, a tribute album featuring trendy acts such as Tame Impala, MGMT and Washed Out could be found on Starbucks counters across the country. Strangely enough, that tribute focused on Fleetwood Mac’s 1979 commercial disappointment Tusk.
Tusk is an album legendary for the band’s work in the studio. Following the unparalleled success of 1977’s Rumours, still one of the bestselling albums of all time, Warner Bros. essentially handed the group a blank check and wound up spending more than $1 million. From this lens, the appeal to a modern musician is obvious – Segall could get off the road and craft the album he hears in his head. That album I would buy.
– By Jordan Francis