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Ty Segall/White Fence - Joy Music Album Reviews

Ty Segall and Tim Presley lock into a psychedelic hive mind again for an exciting, wildly varied album made to be combed through and prodded.

It seemed preordained that the two giants of West Coast rock’n’roll would work together at some point. In 2012, Ty Segall and Tim Presley were both in the middle of a hot streak. Segall was putting out new music at a clip, oscillating between the low-key garage rock of Goodbye Bread and the obliterating punk wildness of Slaughterhouse. As White Fence, Presley was overflowing with psychedelic pop ideas, putting out over six dozen songs between 2010 and 2013. Segall approached Presley at a show, as one does, and they decided to make a split album. But when they got in the studio together, the plan quickly changed and their shred-heavy jam sessions became stoner opus Hair—a high point in each man’s long discography.

Even with both men playing on every song, in certain places Hair still sounded like a split. The fuzzed-out and glammy Marc Bolan worship of Segall’s “Crybaby” is obviously the work of the guy who made a tribute album called Ty Rex, and the Presley-penned “(I Can’t) Get Around You” sounds like a White Fence song with a boilerplate Segall guitar solo. As a team, however, they were instantly soluble. Especially on “Scissor People” and “Time,” their voices glommed together in unison as their guitars—occasionally gentle but also mega-burly—intertwined. More than a vanity team-up, this was the work of two people who wrote in a shared sunbaked, psychedelic language.

Six years and so many records later, they’ve locked into their hive mind once again. Every song on the second Ty and White Fence album Joy is a co-write, and there’s never a moment where one guy overpowers the other. There’s an introduction to “Please Don’t Leave This Town” that shares similarities to several of Presley’s more reserved moments, but it’s balanced by a vocal harmony and guitar solo that carry Segall’s distinct influence. When they start singing, an abstract narrative takes form—something murky about being made of dough and being asked to leave town forever.

Their patchwork psychedelic lyrics are a staple of the album, and so is their tendency to ride the peaks and valleys of songs—letting withdrawn and reserved moments linger before sending them off with a big climactic release. After establishing 48 seconds of calm with a quiet and stripped-back pairing of electric and acoustic guitars on their interstitial song “Room Connector,” they ramp up the energy for a dramatic, loud, fast-strummed flourish that sets the stage for one of the album’s punchiest tracks, “Body Behavior.” It happens again when the minimal percussion of “She Is Gold” gives way to a big scuzzy Blue Cheer groove.

Joy is undeniably more ambitious than Hair. Every track brings a new energy or explores a different vibe. They transition from speed punk (“Prettiest Dog”) into upbeat power pop (“Do Your Hair”). Songs pack both ethereal harmonies and the high-speed clatter of electric guitars (“Good Boy”). There’s not much in the way of screaming—not compared to some of Segall’s most intense work, that’s for sure—but these two spend the entire album swinging wildly between subdued songwriting and all-beef guitars. Their mysterious instincts lead them to repeatedly sing the words “rock is dead”—accompanied by some electric guitar noodling, of course—before offering 30 seconds of squawking noise and titling that song “Rock Flute.” Later, on the song featuring the growls of Segall’s actual dog Fanny, they reference Bryan Ferry’s right-wing politics. That could be a lighthearted throwaway moment, but then Segall and Presley call the listener’s own political complacency into question.

If their tone shifts and coded lyrics make Joy sound chaotic or elusive, a few earnest moments give the album focus and clarity. Sometimes, in the fever dream heap, you hear them offering affirmations of self-love: “I want to believe in me,” they sing in unison on “A Nod.” On “My Friend,” Segall and Presley weave a gorgeous acoustic ballad with a simple message—that they’re there for the person they love. But Segall and Presley didn’t set out to offer tidy narratives or an easily defined aesthetic. Joy is an album to be combed through and prodded. It’s a testament to their shorthand with each other, which somehow ties all the fraying, crusty, silken, wiener dog, kitty cat threads so seamlessly together.

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