No one could ever accuse Ty Segall of not having a diverse set of influences. On Fudge Sandwich, his fourth full-length release of 2018 (!), Segall offers nearly a dozen cover songs that show off not only the impressive range of his inspirations, but also his ability to coax melodies out of the most unlikely places.
These tracks run the gamut from radio classics like War’s “Low Rider” and The Spencer Davis Group’s “I’m a Man” to Sparks’ “Slowboat,” the latter being one of the least typical songs in the Mael brothers’ 47-year discography. Segall truly makes these songs his own, completely omitting the iconic riff from “Low Rider” and slowing the song down to a menacing rumble, including a vocal presentation that sounds almost threatening. “I’m a Man” retains the original’s passion, but the way Segall adds a vibrato at the end of the line “love you so” provides a vibrancy that will make you look at the original in a whole new way. And although Sparks is not a band I would have ever imagined Segall tackling, he certainly chose a song that is completely suited to his own idiosyncratic vocal style.
Fudge Sandwich is the kind of album that provides listeners with a new favorite track every day, no small feat for a collection of cover tunes. Words like “revelation” are terribly overused in music reviews (not least of all from yours truly), but there is perhaps no better way to describe what Ty Segall has done with John Lennon’s “Isolation.” It’s essentially what I’ve wanted to hear since Segall’s Slaughterhouse album made me fantasize about what Lennon might have sounded like if he’d been born 10 years later. Here, the signature mournful piano melody is replaced with fuzz guitar riffs that absolutely haunt one’s brain. Along with Segall’s raggedly appropriate vocals, they give the song a dire urgency which overtakes the original’s ironic humor. Even more astonishing is how it flows so seamlessly into the next song — Funkadelic’s “Hit It and Quit It” — that it sounds like the first half of a matched set.
There are even more out of the box renditions on Fudge Sandwich. Hearing Neil Young’s “The Loner” performed this way makes me finally understand precisely how he inspires someone like Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore (and truly makes me yearn for Segall covers of pretty much any Cheap Trick song from their first five albums). The acoustic guitar-ified “Class War” — a cover of The Dils’ 1977 punk anthem — offers thought-provoking insights into the connections between punk rock and 1960s folk music, not to mention the current political situation in the United States.
Another great thing about cover albums is that they often introduce listeners to bands they haven’t heard yet. Such is the case with several songs here. In “Pretty Miss Titty” (Gong), Segall’s emotive vocals push the song into heartbreaking territory, while “Archangel Thunderbird” (Amon Düül II) has a drum intro that’s so Segall-esque it’s immediately obvious as to why he picked this track. Both songs indicate that Segall, for all of his seemingly traditional rock and roll stylings, is an experimental music fan at heart.
Rudimentary Peni’s “Rotten to the Core” is such a fantastic fuck you to punk’s elder statesmen that it seems unbelievable Segall hasn’t covered it already. Following that incendiary tune with a high octane cover of The Grateful Dead’s “St. Stephen” is a ballsy move, but it works so perfectly.
Fudge Sandwich reveals a lot about Ty Segall, but the two most important things are 1) he is a genius when it comes to identifying just what it is about a song that makes it tick and 2) even when he’s covering another band’s songs, there is no mistaking that it’s Ty Segall. And thank goodness for that.
Fudge Sandwich was released October 26, 2018 on In The Red Records.
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.