Ty Segall’s music exists at the intersection of multiple rock traditions.
Ty Segall’s music exists at the intersection of multiple rock traditions. His work is usually (and not unfairly) labeled as garage rock, but he’s touched on punk, metal, folk, glam, and even ‘70s AM pop throughout his career; all come out sounding and feeling roughly the same. Segall’s music is unclassifiable not because it pushes boundaries but because it finds a distinctive milieu between so many other styles. So on his T. Rex covers album Ty Rex, a fusion of two EPs released in 2011 and 2013, it’s interesting to hear how he works in the context of something established.
The covers here shed light on Segall’s own musical sensibilities. On “Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart,” he immaculately affects T. Rex mastermind Marc Bolan’s yowl, and it doesn’t sound much different from the way he mewls out his own lyrics. The way he effortlessly strains his seventh notes on “Woodland Rock” suggests he’s spent enough time singing along to old rock ’n’ roll to know how it works melodically. And fittingly, the two tracks from Segall’s second Ty Rex release are far folkier than the ones from the first—fitting given that he was working in a largely introspective and acoustic milieu at that time, epitomized on his album Sleeper.
Ty Rex also brings a fresh perspective to T. Rex’s music. T. Rex was two bands during its lifetime, the psych-folk band known as Tyrannosaurus Rex and the abbreviated glam-rock behemoth we know and love. Segall shows on Ty Rex that the differences between the two aren’t as drastic as they might seem. As a lyricist, Bolan worked strictly within the realm of aesthetics; depending on the project, he used the same cool-sounding nonsense to evoke a Technicolor fantasia or a black-leather glam rock underground. United under Segall’s shitgaze production and distinctive sonic hallmarks, both bands’ gibberish sounds the same.
If you’re familiar with the original songs, the Segall versions aren’t as fun, and though he’s a fine rock singer, he doesn’t have an ounce of Bolan’s effortless charisma. But thanks to the lack of well-known T. Rex material, it’s easy to just listen to Ty Rex as a Ty Segall album. “Salamanda Palaganda” doesn’t capture the original’s baroque beauty and might disappoint some who might be expecting it, but in Segall’s hands, it’s a solid garage rock song. Ditto “Elemental Child,” a mellow, meandering jam as performed by T. Rex and a Stooges-worthy noise freakout as performed by Segall.
Segall isn’t trying to meticulously reconstruct T. Rex’s songs, nor add anything to them he thought was missing. Indeed, none of these songs rival their originals except “Cat Black,” a cut from obscure Tyrannosaurus record Unicorn that Segall improves by making it sound exactly like a Ty Segall original. Judging by the gusto at which he goes at these songs, he mostly picked them based on how fun they are to sing; if there was a bar down the street from Segall that had dozens of obscure T. Rex deep cuts on the karaoke machine, he may never have made this thing at all. It’s lucky he did. Ty Rex is great as a reference for both Ty’s and T. Rex’s work, but above all else, it’s a great listen.