If you’re into your psychedelia, your freaky, fuzzy garage blues rock, you’ll know who Ty Segall is. Back in 2012, Ty teamed up with Tim Presley, who has recorded a flurry of psychedelic lo-fi music, that is far too overlooked, under the name White Fence. The album was called ‘Hair’, and six years later, the two have reunited, and it feels so weird.
Taking into consideration the anti-habitual nature of the two performers involved, ‘Joy’ isn’t necessarily a record that rises above expectations. That’s fine, when freak folk and throwback psychedelia is your game, the mere concept of expectations ceases to exist.
Most of the performances on ‘Joy’, sans the excellently expressive ‘Body Behaviour’, are quite dead-eyed. There’s a surreal, vacant stare to a lot of the shared vocal duties, starting quite hauntingly with second track, eerie acoustic tester ‘Please Don’t Leave This Town’. Alongside a few other songs, such as ‘Grin Without Smile’ and ‘Other Way’, the vocals make for some pretty convincing juxtaposition, as the musical motifs that sit alongside them are always either jumpy, ear-piercingly distorted, whacked out or even comical – see the odd staccato guitars and tumbling drums of the aforementioned ‘Grin Without Smile’.
Still, there are moments of joy on ‘Joy’, see ‘Tommy’s Place’, the jovial rocker, with fluttery “la la la” backing vocals, that’ll either have you laughing or crying with confusion.
Some tunes make a few nods to Captain Beefheart’s more outrageous, free jazz-inspired work, like ‘Trout Mask Replica’ and ‘Lick My Decals Off, Baby!’, in fact, the sudden, humorously dark bassline that appears partway through ‘Hey Joel, Where You Going With That?’ sounds like something ripped straight from the latter.
Then there’s the striking, almost mini-suite ‘She Is Gold’, which sees the loose song structure prove that there are no airs being put on by Ty and Tim, that their love of the unconventional is natural. Think ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’, but less warm and more antagonistic. Closing track ‘My Friend’ has a similar knack for transition, or lack of transition, an attempt to cram in the bulk of what makes ‘Joy’ what it is, with a wispy, aloof vocal section, placed above a finger-picked acoustic guitar, before settling on a Who-esque rocker outro, unfortunately sounding less special than it wants.
Granted, you may argue that Ty Segall and White Fence aren’t attempting to go out of their way to be appealing with ‘Joy’, but there is a startling lack of appeal, particularly after a couple of listens. You’ll notice unwelcoming patterns and nonsensical ideas that really lack any concise depth. In fact, you may call ‘Joy’ the typical stoner’s album, because the best of what you see is what isn’t really there – for the most part, there’s nothing there.
Both guys have released vibrant, exciting barn burners of rock records over the past decade, but ‘Joy’ isn’t one of those. Ty and Tim pen some juicily different rock here and there, but it’s missing the vital ingredients that tend to make psychedelic rock memorable – it’s the psychedelic without the sizzle. Maybe on this occasion, two heads just aren’t better than one.
‘Joy’ is out now via Drag City