Unless you are an alert follower, it is difficult to keep up with Ty Segall. His breakneck pace is admirable but makes him also somewhat of a difficult nut to crack for those looking to just dip their toe in. In the case of many artists, the collection entitled Singles 2007-2010 seems on paper like it would be a good entry point. After all, they’re singles, right? Given the nature of the format, they’re likely his most accessible and condensed work. Not so much, as these are punk singles and don’t adhere to any commercial rule. Segall’s singles collection, (and its cassette counterpart $ingles), are a sprawling mess of music. Choppy and jumbled, getting all those 7” records thrown in your face in one listen can be enough scruff on the ear to dry off that toe and put your shoes back on.
Despite not being a conceptual artist, Segall’s work often sounds best in format of the concentrated album (see Goodbye Bread, Ty Segall Band’s Slaughterhouse, or his most recent effort, Manipulator), or simply just in short 7” spurts as the songs on that collection and his new one were originally intended to be ingested.
Segall has quickly followed up Manipulator with another roundup of his non-album tracks, the breezier singles sequel, $ingle$ 2. Only 12 tracks, and 37 minutes, it’s a far nicer listen than the first Singles, due in part to Segall’s progression as a songwriter, even if his pension for concrete-scratching garage rock hasn’t changed.
Starting with the three track “Spiders” single, we’re given a 7” that’s unifying theme seems to be false starts – “Spiders” begins with uptempo skuzzy strumming before turning into a demented slow jam freakout. “Handy Glams” starts with an uptempo bass groove before tossing it in favor in a squalling crawler reminiscent of the Smiths’ “Death of a Disco Dancer.” “Cherry Red” opens with 30 seconds of rumbling ambiance before a count-in to a punchy cover of the Groundhogs track. They’re among the most bleary and tossed off songs on the collection, but an entertainingly weird trio. Things tighten up considerably with “I Can’t Feel It” B-side, “Falling Hair.” The mid-tempo psyche rock track is a refreshing palette cleanser, especially with the addition of some fluttering mellotron thrown in the mix. Because Segall likes to keep things interesting for record collectors, that single has an alternate pink label version with a different song, the acoustic but brassy “Children of Paul.” Having different label versions of the same single is almost like a contest for fans over which ones will get the superior B-side (in this case, it was the red label buyers who got “Falling Hair”).
In 2012, Segall cut a split 7” with the Feeling of Love which features the adequate but mostly unimpressive “It’s a Problem,” a track that has a nice, sunny sound, but sounds exactly like the type of cut artists let go to split singles. “Mother Lemonade” is an outtake from Twins that shows off a somewhat sunnier side to the album’s otherwise unusually darker corners. “For Those Who Weep” is this collection’s true acoustic ballad and it turns out to be one of its best, a swaying track with a choir of Ty Segalls singing together like around a campfire. For “Fucked Up Motherfucker,” Segall channels the Fun House antics of the Stooges, complete with some wild saxes that ripple like flames off his amp. “Femme Fatale” unsheathes feedback swords on a pumping Velvet Underground cover that scarcely resembles the Nico-sung original. An experimental, mostly percussive piece airs things out in “Music For a Film,” from the Less Artists More Condos 7” series, which is good, because closing track “Pettin the Dog” is a pure, unbridled barn-burner that needs some breathing room before it blows up the end of the compilation.
$ingle$ 2 bests its predecessor by just about every turn – a part of that has to do with its leaner run time, but also in just that Ty Segall has been well into a great stride of his career since 2011, and this here represents the odds and ends of his roll. For those still unsure of where to start with Segall, this is still not the place to enter — the opening three tracks are fun but more for the previously initiated, and despite it being a decent pile on of tracks, it lacks the cohesion of a top-to-bottom record. This is more like the batter that runs off the cake – at times underdone, but in many ways offering a sweet satisfaction that the completed product cannot offer.