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Ty Segall + Sharpie Smile - Royale (Boston) - May 1, 2024

5 May 2024

The surge of neo-psych has been in full swing for a while now, and one would be remiss in ignoring Ty Segall’s role as one of the spearheads. Along with fellow conspirators like John Dwyer and the support of labels like In The Red and Burger, a particularly high octane strain of guitar-centric rock music has become fashionable again, at least in certain circles.

The band from when I saw it last (Psycho Las Vegas in 2021) has had a slight tweak; longtime friends Mikal Cronin and Emmet Kelly were familiar anchors on bass and guitar, while keyboardist Ben Boye joined ranks, and Emotional Mugger -era drummer Evan Burrows took over while Charlie Moothart is on the injured reserve list.

The basic template remains intact. Float some melodies that wouldn’t be viewed askance from Davies or Lennon, and bolt them onto riffs forged on anvils of the heaviest of metals, created in the shadows of the grimiest garage. Not that the path is a straight one all the time; the Emotional Mugger record sidled up right next to Booji Boy electro-weirdness and I still have occasional PTSD flashbacks of Segall flaying me with a fake umbilical cord.

The last two records after the bruising (in a good way) Freedom’s Goblin lost the plot for me and I drifted out of Segall’s orbit for a bit, but the gravitational pull of Three Bells is strong enough to bring me back home. And for fans of that record, we got a solid two-thirds of it, Ty set up at his familiar 45 degree angle at far stage left and the rest of the band fanned out in a semi circle with Kelly at the far end. To underscore the new material, the show started with the first three songs, in track list order. The title track took a little bit to get off simmer and into a rolling boil, and when it did the band locked in like some multi-limbed organism. “Void” took hold via Cronin’s throbbing and off kilter rhythm, Kelly’s fingerpicking style forming clear crystals of sound.

Segall paid direct homage to two of his loves in his life, his dog via “My Best Friend” (and at the merch table there were two just-painted pieces of his dog that Ty made), and the set closer “Denée” about his wife and co-creator. Using a vocal round, Boye leveraged the vintage sound of his Rhodes to great effect. Another song with an unexpected flourish included “Looking At You” that went from folk-era Zep into a Segall/Kelly cosmic guitar duel that could just about steal your face. A bit of a disappointment that nothing from my favorite record was included tonight, but a couple from Melted and “My Head Explodes” from Goodbye Bread (how has the title track not been picked up for an ad by Atkins is a mystery) showed some love to the older tunes.

Fellow Drag City label mates Sharpie Smile (fka as Kamikaze Palm Tree) took the stage first, and my overwhelming sensation was “what is happening” and not in a good way. The band felt like AI engines in different foreign languages tried to construct songs with feed data of Cate Le Bon, The Slits, Dry Cleaning or Lithics and as AI has a particularly hard time remembering that most people only have five fingers per hand, the results were baffling.