Where Ty Segall went after Freedom Goblin was always going to be interesting. The 2018 double-album was such a career-defining statement, it left you feeling as if Segall, in his garage rock guise at least, had achieved his ultimate form.
Needless to say, a couple of releases on, First Taste is a very different record. Written in the shadow of mudflows and wildfires that brought devastation to northwest Los Angeles, these 12 songs find Segall in a more reflective place.
Before you panic though, that doesn’t mean that the face-melting has been chucked away completely. Opening track ‘Taste’ swings a fuzz-laden bassline over its head like a morning star, while cuts like ‘The Fall’ rush through evil-sounding guitar squalls. However, even when Segall does cut loose on First Taste, he’s quick to wind it in again. There aren’t any eight-minute freak-outs or extended guitar solos to be found here.
In fact, the stand-out moments look more towards Laurel Canyon than Hawkwind. The a cappella ‘Ice Plant’ is a beautiful ode to a half-remembered childhood memory that recalls the broken tenderness of Dennis Wilson. ‘The Arms’, meanwhile, with its lilting mandolin hook pushes Segall’s undisputed ear into psychedelic folk. In its own, quieter way, it’s an album that’s almost as radical as Freedom Goblin; adding choral elements, bouzouki and brass instruments to create a pastoral counter to his usual reverb-drenched punch.
Taking First Taste as a whole though, it’s almost like Segall was in two-minds about where he wanted to go. It certainly rocks in places, but it never quite reaches the highs found on Freedom Goblin or Manipulator. And, while it’s definitely weird, at no point does it ever throw any real curveballs. All in all, it’s best thought of as a first, tentative step of a new journey. Long-time fans might be willing to get on board and go with this new direction but if you’re looking for another set of sun-kissed psychedelic jams, then prepare to be disappointed.
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