On ‘Fudge Sandwich’, Ty Segall reveals a complex, reverent understanding of his idols through the lens of his own relentless spirit
October 29, 2018
2018 began with a particularly gleeful iteration of Ty Segall’s typically unhinged bang. His Freedom Band that emerged with 2017’s eponymous release found their footing on Freedom’s Goblin, unleashing over an hour of Segall’s indelible brand of garage rock, elevated always by his sacrosanct commitment to glam, fuzz, and power pop in the midst of his evil space psychedelia. Goblin reasserted Segall’s place among the West Coast ranks, reminding everyone of the kind of fully formed composer he has become.
But the show stopper on Goblin wasn’t a Segall song.
When I looked at the track listing and saw “Every 1’s a Winner,” there was no question what was coming. I could hear the riff, I could see the leather and polyester combos, I could taste the Hot Chocolate. When track 3 rolled around, sure enough, Segall unloaded perhaps the best cover song he’s recorded in a career that is chock full of them.
Segall has always had an attachment to the cover song, and he’s always treated the endeavor with a greater urgency than many of his peers, be they contemporaries or influences that are years gone. He holds a special reverence for each song he chooses to arrange, and he channels it through a relentless amalgam of pure fun and pure devotion to the style and attitude of the song’s origin, often drawing out a full portrait of his heroes while reimagining their identities, allowing them to play anew in a universe all Segall’s own. In this way, Segall offers his listeners a unique answer to the question of his musical influences and tastes.
Fudge Sandwich appears in the blink of an eye and somehow before what was supposed to be his fourth full-length album in 2018. Ty has dived fully into his sandbox of musical portraiture to deliver a lightning bolt of purely fun rock and roll, and a gleaming love letter to his diverse idols. The stunning rendition of John Lennon’s “Isolation” flies thanks to an eerily on-point vocal performance that practically reincarnates the Beatle, while Segall’s trademark glam and fuzz explodes the ballad into a relentless freakout. He somehow recreates the unhinged guitar and vocal tones of Amon Düül II on highlight “Archangel Thunderbird,” ripping and howling amidst typically funkified Freedom Band percussion. On the album closer, Segall captures every ounce of the heartbreak and longing of Sparks’ near-perfect “Slowboat” to remind everyone just how special the rocker is at balladic arrangement.
Elsewhere, it’s Segall’s deranged explosion of his source material that achieves these tracks’ transcendence. Ty growls out War’s “Low Rider” like some cursed thing atop a pit of synths that swirls and screams. Neil Young’s “The Loner” and Dead’s classic “St. Stephen” both get almost complete retreatments, shoved through a meat grinder of punk and freak out and unleashed as euphoric exercises in heavy. In one of the record’s softest moments, Segall casts The Dils’ frantic “Class War” in an entirely different light. Segall delivers a top-shelf LA power pop gem with a majorly satisfying Segallian solo to boot.
Fudge Sandwich arrived out of nowhere, but it feels like one of Segall’s’ most natural installments. The psych master has paid respects to his musical heroes throughout his career with consistently impressive covers, and a whole album of them is just a peach of a thing for Segall fans. He somehow manages to make an album of novelties stand all the way up as a record of real value, delivering a truly inspired celebration of his predecessors and a first-rate rock record at once.