The experimental garage rocker’s tenth studio album is Segall’s most vulnerable work yet.
Ty Segall has released his first studio record of 2019, a mature and yearning reflection of the past. Although musically and outwardly free-spirited, First Taste is Segall at his most confined. Segall explores his beginnings and iterates mention of family and formality, how these elements restrict him from ever-evolving. First Taste demonstrates Segall’s inability to change-but also his absolute capability at expressing such hopelessness.
“Taste“, the record’s second single and first track, is a fiery beginning to an album that only becomes more lively. The track begins with an isolated jungle drum that explodes into an array of fuzzy, repetitive guitar riffs and Segall’s signature distorted vocals. Segall’s lyrics, although rarely ever sensible (or audible), are an interesting attempt at criticism of provincial, everyday life. Segall sings, “We live, wearing/Shaking hands, living with/Sleeping on, making it.” He continues with the refrain, “Our salivating makes it all taste worse.” Perhaps Segall means that if we ignore how futile the cycle of life is, then reality becomes even more bitter. There’s no use in glorifying the tragic end we all come to, so why not bravely face our fates?
“Ice Plant” is a refreshing escape from the chaos of First Taste; and a tame and controlled yet imperfect homage to Segall’s hometown of Laguna Beach, California. The song consists of only vocals and an occasional piano or drum addition, a particularly unusual choice for Segall. He abandons the concept of garage rock almost entirely; perfectly flawed choruses and minimal musical interference truly showcase Segall’s simple yet poetic lyricism. He reminisces on “the orange plants that used to be in [his] driveway,” referencing the industrialization of his home. He observes further; “I see the yellow hair/Fell into the sea/But I don’t care.” On first listen, “Ice Plant” seems strangely gracious; but when further analyzed, it may be the most depressingly apathetic song Segall has ever created.
“The Arms” is one of the more coherent songs of the album, about the pain of growing up and abandoning what you love most. A delightfully buoyant, almost childlike guitar strums, before Segall’s insidious lyrics, join in. He rejects adulthood entirely: “I must forget so that we both can sleep again/So I jump into the ocean just like a baby/I wake up blue again.” Segall refuses to face the issue, indulging in his own blissful ignorance.
First Taste appears to be Segall’s most earnest and unfamiliar work in a long time. He experiments with tone, distortion, expanding his style far beyond the confinements of “garage rock.” Although Segall’s words demonstrate a lack of change, his dynamic, ever-evolving nature brilliantly juxtaposes his mood. His questioning encourages us to do the same, to ponder our own beginnings, and wonder if there really is anywhere to grow from here.