For those who plan on throwing a ’60s throwback-themed party in the near future, here is your soundtrack. The influence of that era is so clear on Ty Segall & White Fence’s new release, “Hair,” that if you can’t hear it, you must be higher than the band. From psychedelic to folk to garage rock, this album blends together every imaginable genre from the decade of free love.
Having so many influences could easily lead to a scattered assortment, but in this case, it works. Maybe that’s because of what each member of this collaboration brings to the table. Ty Segall, a leader of the garage-rock scene in San Francisco, brings a raw energy, while White Fence brings his penchant for psychedelia. The pair has created a happy medium through their shared love of all things ’60s.
If the album had a single, it would be “I Am Not a Game.” The song has emerged as a clear favorite for fans and critics alike — it’s featured on reviews and blog posts everywhere. The opening organ riff and punchy rhythm guitar make you want to don some paisley and get your ’60s groove on. Then the vocals roll in to a slowed down verse literally consisting of only two notes –– garage rock at its best. By the end of the song, the duo has us rocking out to a noisy, thrashing jam session that lasts for a full minute.
Another standout track — and my personal favorite — is “Easy Ryder.” And not just because they pay homage to ’60s aesthetics by spelling rider with a “y” (à la The Byrds). It’s the laid back, tripped-out attitude of the song that hooks you in. With more melodic vocals over simple but effective chords, the band sings in a cocky swagger, “You’re an easy rider / You’re a fire driver.” And since all good things come in threes, they tack on “You’re an ambulance driver” at the end of the song. EMTs and paramedics, feel the love.
Fourth track “The Black Glove/Rag” is a classic garage rock song with a heavy drumbeat, scuzzed out guitar and vocals that are shouted over the rest of the noise. A pervading guitar solo emerges in the middle and slowly takes over the song, sounding a lot like an over-enthusiastic kid who can’t quite play guitar but wants to rock out anyway. Just try not to picture Jack Black in “School of Rock” at that moment.
Each song showcases a different genre of ’60s rock music. “(I Can’t) Get Around You” brings out the acoustic guitar for a folksier, hippie vibe. Opening track “Time” has a blues-influenced guitar riff that sounds similar to Cream. And the short song “Crybaby,” with its shaky vibrato vocals, brings Elvis and ’50s pop rock to mind.
With only eight tracks total, the album comes to a total of around 30 minutes. But whoever said brevity was a bad thing? The duo knows how to cut out the fluff — a lesson many other bands out there could stand to learn.
In today’s garage rock scene, it’s all too easy for many bands to sink into mediocrity. The trademark simplicity and fuzzy guitar noise of garage rock can become something to hide behind for those who lack songwriting talent. But with “Hair,” we get none of that. Every song has energy and spunk. It’s raw, straightforward, and to the point.