Among noise buffs, fuzz is considered the most extreme form of distortion, often completely blowing out a signal with staticky white noise (think of the bass sound that begins Norm Greenbaum’s 1969 hit “Spirit in the Sky”). Similarly, among Ty Segall fans, Fuzz albums are known to be heavier and sludgier than the records the Orange County native releases under his own name. III is a raucous rock album in the grand tradition of everything getting turned up to 11.
Opener “Returning” sets the mood, effectively blending the raw energy of early White Stripes with the marijuana-tinged riffage of Black Sabbath. Charles Moothart, who plays drums in Segall’s Freedom Band, supplies some Tony-Iommi-inspired power chords on guitar, while Ty Segall delivers the song’s pummeling percussion. His sneering vocals hover above the sonic turbulence with some cryptic imagery. “Call the morning/ Speak clearly/ With ears open/ Light and dark exist in past but fall forward,” he sings.
Lyrically, much of the album seems aimed at the 1 percent. During the Sabbath-esque, guitar-heavy jamming of “Nothing People,” Segall sings, “Nothing people have enough to eat/ But they ain’t worth a dollar/ Nothing people can take my seat/ If it makes them feel taller/ ‘Cause they lie to themselves.” Following the retro-glam of his flanged drums at the outset of “Mirror,” the band launches into a galloping groove that almost sounds like an Iron Maiden recording that’s been aged in an acid bath. Between snatches of cool harmonized lead guitar, Segall sings, “Crush your mirror/ We’re at your back/ The future’s here/ And you’re the past.”
Ironically, the album’s first single, “Spit,” sounds the most like a Ty Segall song. Its classic rock vibe and his foregrounded vocals feel almost chipper when contrasted with the album’s darker and heavier material.
Some of the longer songs allow the band to stretch out in sprawling, bluesy, guitar-centric jams. “Time Collapse” builds from a sparse noodling intro into an epic jam over the course of its six minutes. “End Returning,” the closer as well as the longest song here, clocks in at nearly eight minutes. It takes the listener from a sparse groove anchored by Meatbodies bassist Chad Ubovich’s low end to a blistering punk assault. “Give it up/ Gimme your face down/ And eat the ground,” Segall sneers over the spastic cacophony.
III was recorded by Steve Albini, a name synonymous with obsessive attention to the details of distortion. Albini’s stripped-down approach focused on capturing the band’s live sound rather than a whole bunch of overdubs made with expensive studio toys. As a result, III almost feels like a live album but without the roaring crowd. The raw energy of the performances and the interplay between the musicians gives the album much of its heft and appeal.
Fuzz’s latest is sure to be a hit among the burnout crowd, destined to play over the bubbling of bongs, in dorm rooms festooned with swathes of psychedelic fabric and Ozzy posters. Once again, Ty Segall demonstrates that his work ethic is matched only by the breadth of his influences and the myriad array of his many side projects and collaborations.