Ty Segall & White Fence — Joy ANALYSIS & REVIEW
Even without knowing any backstory, one can easily surmise that there are two distinct songwriting styles at work in this short album, being very much a collaboration by two different minded musicians. One style revolved heavily on finding colorful harmonic progression, which was undoubtedly Segall’s side of things. When that side was featured, as in the first five tracks, it was quite successful. The bIII borrowed chord was used especially well throughout the harmonically focused songs as it provided a hidden minor feel while paired with tonic and adding a darker yet still invigorating dimension. The bIII-I-IV progression with good surprising substitutions in “Please Don’t Leave This Town” proved to be a truly enjoyable groove that could hold up an entire 2-minute song structure, and the fast bIII-I chorus in “Body Behavior” mixed greatly with the rhythmically enticing movement through most every diatonic chord imaginable in the verses. Harmonic color was a real highlight of the work and the main reason behind its enjoyability factor.
The other songwriting style focused immensely on finding eccentric timbral combinations within traditional acoustics; by process of elimination and my previous listening experience, I can assume that this was Tim Presley’s contribution. This side, taking up the bulk of the second half of the album, was significantly less successful. When the timbre was the driving force, or indeed, when all other elements seceded in lack of important action to it, it never held up the same amount of captivation that existed previously. Essentially, the sonic experiments were done with the texture of voice, electric guitar, and a random noise likely coming from another softer guitar layer. First of all, the basic texture stayed rather weak and flimsy, with instrumental features only existing as showcases of sonic oddities on an instrument that already sounds all too familiar and extended techniques that were more distracting than anything else. I especially felt something was off in the song “Hey Joel, Where You Going With That?”, which was simply a mess of small, seemingly random guitar note picks that were quite undeveloped and uninteresting.
While the two styles were easily distinguishable, and one was noticeably more emotionally weighty and worthwhile, the two still had a hand in every track. This wasn’t simply a black and white split between two musicians, but rather a legitimate creative fusion. This worked positively in that the underlying harmonies were never neglected as an afterthought, and they always provided a good sense of direction and feel, even when becoming nothing but odd tritone based arpeggiations in the awkward, unfulfilling track “Tommy’s Place”. On the other hand, the negative side was that sound was never layered with the force that the instrumentation could have provided, always having an inkling of trying to make the guitar not sound like a guitar with overthought soloist techniques, even in the strictest of rock n’ roll settings. The exception to this was the song “Other Way”, which did indeed have a grasping and well-layered sound where guitar experimentation was tight and fitting, though mostly due to the shock forte dynamic and the song doing basically nothing else to grasp attention.
With 15 listed tracks in 30 minutes, this album expectedly had a rather choppy feel to it, going from one idea to the next on the blink of an eye without preparation. There’s merit in trying to fit all of the best ideas into one work, but that really only comes out as sensible if the ideas carry some sort of obvious stylistic connection, which this album did not. The negative of this form outweighed the potential positive just enough, which was that ideas never had room to fully stick, or more perhaps importantly, develop. This made the melodic layer nothing but a hit or miss feature with whatever lick was repeated first. It had great clear simplicity in “Do Your Hair” and “My Friend”, and muddled nonchalantness in “Other Way” and “She Is Gold”. It’s got some fun at best, and the first half is quite a banger. I enjoyed it just enough to not call it boring, but as whole it doesn’t go beyond that.