Rating:At first glance, Bay Area rocker Ty Segall’s new double 7” EP, Mr. Face, appears to be a gimmick designed to provide fans a fresh experience that the four new songs here do not. Record label Famous Class is billing Mr. Face’s translucent red-and-blue vinyls as the world’s first playable pair of 3D glasses. The music, it seems, takes a backseat. Hey, maybe Ty Segall will be remembered as the guy who stumbled upon the business model that saved the sinking recording industry—one that focuses on anything but music. Don’t bet on it.
Segall is known for his breakneck pace, both in recording output and the way he makes his guitar wail like a wolf howling into the night. He has released seven solo albums, not to mention collaborated on countless records, in a span of seven years. His 2014 double-album, Manipulator, continued to smooth out the rough edges in a sound that once recalled what Iggy Pop might have sounded like had he grown up awash in the Pacific Ocean surf.
Segall’s near-constant output, then, makes it less of a head-scratcher why he and his label would focus on a visual aspect rather than a sonic one. The 3D element provides an incentive to purchase an otherwise inessential musical document and maybe, just maybe, offers a distraction to fight off Segall fatigue for all but his most ardent supporters.
When it comes to Segall, I am in the camp that reveled in his grimier sound of yesteryear, notably the psych freakouts of Ty Segall Band’s 2012 album, Slaughterhouse. Mr. Face, by contrast, sounds subdued and almost sanitized, like he spent the entire 13-minute running time scrubbing year-old grease stains from a frying pan.
It’s a tad ironic, then, that Mr. Face’s most enticing track is about the dangers of overmedication and chemical-laced food removing nutrients from one’s body.
“Breathe in what they cook/ Eat the meat, eat the bottle,” Segall coos in the glam rock-aping “Drug Mugger.” “Don’t look where it comes from.” The self-titled opening track references a different kind of struggle, depicting a shop owner closing his store amid financial problems. For all the tension inherent in the subject matter, the acoustic guitar skips along in a light-hearted manner reminiscent of a buddy travel movie. “Circles” is notable for an opening drumbeat that sounds like it’s being tossed around as if in a dryer. Segall’s breathy falsetto takes the reins from there in a manner that fails to give the uptempo track the gravity it needs. Closing track “Circles” is a pretty, if dull, bit of slow-dancing Brit romanticism.
Mr. Face is far from terrible, but it’s nothing as revelatory as Segall’s raucous live shows or his prior full-lengths. The EP fails to provide another dimension to the Segall oeuvre. Nor does it shed the gimmick label that was my first thought upon learning about this release. Don’t worry, Segall fans. There’s still 11 months and change left in 2015. That means there’s time for two studio albums, a live album (Live in San Francisco is actually dropping later this month) and a 3D cookbook. Okay, maybe not the cookbook. Even Ty Segall’s productivity has limits.