2019 Music Reviews

Album Review: Ty Segall & Freedom Band ‘Deforming Lobes’

There is nothing quite like a Ty Segall show. Witnessing this talented wunderkind and his equally spectacular band in a live setting is nothing short of mind-blowing (and eardrum-rupturing, for that matter). With all of the live clips available on YouTube, as well as the numerous appearances Segall and his band have made on various late night TV shows, it seems a wonder that a legit live album hasn’t been released until now. Ty Segall & Freedom Band’s Deforming Lobes was worth the wait.

The intro to Deforming Lobes, during which the announcement of the band’s name is cut off by the opening guitar riff of “Warm Hands” (from Segall’s 2017 self-titled album), boasts the kind of self-effacing humor that fans have come to expect. Yet, there’s nothing unassuming about these live tracks.

Indeed, the studio versions of these tunes feel almost quaint by comparison, particularly the two selections from Segall’s 2016 glam masterpiece Emotional Mugger. The deadpan backing vocals and Segall’s sneering snarls in “Squealer,” for example, transform the song into something far more primordial. This adaptation of “The Crawler” (from 2014’s Manipulator) not only reveals how much the emotional resonance of a song can change from studio to stage, it also shows that no matter how much he’s evolved over the years, Segall’s songwriting skills have always been superlative.

While Segall often employs a fetching falsetto, he goes full-throttle and full-throated rock god on the stage, with ragged screams and improvisational scanning of the lyrics. If you want these songs to sound like they do on the albums, you’d be better off just staying home. For the rest of us, however, these live interpretations are incendiary.

The original version of “Finger” (from 2010’s Melted) is an early entry into the spooky Segall catalog, tunes that evoke the haunting pop melancholy of both The Beatles and Cheap Trick. Here, the song feels more than a little bit dangerous, especially when it opens with what sounds like a borrowed riff from “Slaughterhouse” (from 2012’s album of the same name).

“They Told Me Too” somehow manages to eclipse the intensity of the original (from 2012’s Twins) to become something savage and sexy. Conversely, “Cherry Red” (a Groundhogs cover from 2014’s $ingles) exchanges garage rock fuzz for sultry blues, and is all the better for it. Deforming Lobes’ encore is a seven and a half minute rendition of “Love Fuzz” (another Twins selection) that buries sweet, catchy chords underneath a rip-roaring, accelerated blast of minimalist noise.

Yet, this is all so much pedantic babbling in the end. What makes Deforming Lobes essential are things that cannot be described as much as felt. There’s a bit towards the end of “Warm Hands,” when after a lengthy improvisational jam, the band adds a particularly emotive riff, only for it to end almost as suddenly as it began. It’s little details like this that make all the difference between a decent live performance and one that stays with you for years to come.

Deforming Lobes was released by Drag City on March 29, 2019.

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.

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