When I was a kid I was drawn to music that would irritate my parents. Angry punk rock with incomprehensible screaming usually did the trick. Now that I’m a parent myself, I enjoy music that drives my kids nuts. Maybe this is a personality defect. But either way, your loved ones, regardless of their generational relation to you, are not ready for the new Wasted Shirt album’s brash and manic weirdness. Time to turn it up and fray some nerves!
Wasted Shirt is a collaboration between fuzzed-out singer-songwriter Ty Segall and Brian Chippendale, drummer for the certifiably bonkers noise duo Lightning Bolt. The musical odd couple holed up in Segall’s SoCal studio for eight days in July 2018. The resulting album, titled Fungus II, draws more from Chippendale’s frenetic noise vibe than Segall’s stoner rock. This is not easy listening.
The album opens with the sonic barrage of “All Is Lost.” The musical cacophony, which evokes the earliest, weirdest (and also best) Butthole Surfers albums, eventually gives way to something that almost sounds like a riff. Segall’s characteristic high and vaguely nasally voice can be heard contributing to the song’s chanted screams. Surfers’-influenced crypto-blues guitar licks punctuate many of the album’s songs, including “All Is Lost,” “Zeppelin 5” and “Harsho.”
The album’s first single, “Double the Dream” is a little like listening to a “Schoolhouse Rock” song about interjections while on LSD. Both Segall and Chippendale contribute to the staccato screaming at the song’s outset. The pugilistic percussion and chanting is subsumed by the song’s grinding bass line. “Harsho” alternates between sonic chaos and noisy riffing. The song ends up sounding like a Gang of Four recording that’s been drawn, quartered and reassembled by Keebler elves who failed their drug tests and were subsequently banned from all future cookie baking.
The album ventures closest to normalcy on “The Purple One,” which features an enthusiastically strummed acoustic guitar and sneering vocals delivered by Chippendale and Segall. Other songs are more like sonic pastiches with vocals and instrumental sounds chopped up and rearranged, seemingly by a kitchen blender, into stuttering, wavering and discombobulating new combinations. Fans of the post-hip-hop apocalyptica of Death Grips will feel right at home.
Scholars think that the word “weird” evolved from the word “wayward,” which Shakespeare used to describe a person hellbent on not following the directions. Segall and Chippendale take a sledgehammer to music theory on Fungus II, smashing at traditional notions of melody and harmony, repetition and variation, even time and space. The resulting cacophony carries only one real holdover from more traditional rock and roll: the passion of its creators. As weird as these songs get, they never become sterile or unfeeling, nor do they become mere sonic experiments designed to test new theories.
The collaboration is a trip off the beaten path by travelers determined to break on through our notions of normalcy. Or maybe Segall just made the record to drive his dog nuts.