If you went to any of the shows on Ty Segall’s 2013 tour, you likely saw Ex-Cult as one of the opening bands. Their new millennium hardcore punk is vicious and unforgiving, the perfect amuse-bouche to the savagery that Segall and company unleashed on 2012’s Slaughterhouse release.
It was little surprise, then, when Segall teamed up with longtime cohort Charles Moothart and Ex-Cult’s Chris Shaw for a project called GØGGS. While the band’s self-titled 2016 release was impressive, it’s on their new album, Pre Strike Sweep, where they indicate their mettle.
Opening with the uneasy, acoustic guitar of “Killing Time,” it quickly becomes obvious that GØGGS have evolved into a different beast. The repeating riff on “Pre Strike Sweep” induces awe and nausea in equal measure, only to switch gears completely when Segall’s distinctive, melodic shred bleeds through and Shaw bellows the song’s title repeatedly, like a rallying cry.
Like Institute’s Moses Brown, Shaw has a tough, impenetrable vocal style that’s ideal for this kind of unrelenting hardcore attack. Sure, one could play “Spot the Influence” and talk about Black Flag or Fear, but GØGGS isn’t some retro pastiche. What makes them unique is how each band member’s particular skills merge in a way that’s both familiar and thrillingly fresh.
Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to Moothart’s drumming prowess will take notice in “Still Feeding” and “Burned Entrance,” while CFM’s Michael Anderson brings his bass skills to the infectious opening of “CTA.” Those wonky guitar interruptions in “Space Rinse” and “Vanity” are pure Ty Segall, but here they add a bit of levity to Shaw’s frequently pitch-dark lyrics.
The title track evokes J.G. Ballard’s Crash but without the satirical, sexual overtones: “It took one night to change me/ I felt those fingers tightening / Then wake from roadside surgery / My jacket ripped and burning.” Equally bleak is “Burned Entrance,” which tells of a “dumb young writer burning out on the road,” one who is “chewing down his boredom to the bone everywhere that he goes.”
This may be grim stuff, but don’t mistake Shaw for some twisted freak. “Most of the stuff that I write — whether it’s short stories or poetry or journal entries — I think it’s all pretty dark because in reality, I’m pretty chill,” he explained in a 2016 interview. “I like to explore the darker, weirder aspects of life in my writing.”
It’s the last three tracks on Pre Strike Sweep that push it into truly memorable territory. The rhythm section of “Ruptured Line” has the proto-Goth gloom of early Bauhaus all over it, especially when Segall’s guitar sounds more than a little bit like Daniel Ash. “Funeral Relief” is possibly the best metaphor for suicide ever (“Under the ground I can’t be let down / And that’s fine with me I’ll find relief”) and manages to be undeniably catchy while it channels vintage Siouxsie and the Banshees. Anderson’s bass pummels everything and everyone in “Morning Reaper” as Shaw belches out a blistering vocal assault over a drumbeat that was made for moshpits.
At 30 minutes, Pre Strike Sweep doesn’t overstay its welcome, but instead leaves its listeners looking for the “repeat” button. Don’t make the mistake of thinking GØGGS is a mere vanity project for its members; this is the real deal.
Pre Strike Sweep was released by In the Red Records on September 28.
Leslie Hatton (@popshifter) is a Fannibal, an animal lover, a music maven and a horror movie junkie. She created and managed Popshifter from 2007 – 2017, and also contributes to Biff Bam Pop, Diabolique Magazine, Everything Is Scary, Modern Horrors, Rue Morgue and more.