Sunday, May 13, 2012

New Ty Segall/White Fence, Sarchasm, Minute 2 Midnight

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After a detour into singer-songwriter territory on last year’s Goodbye Bread, San Francisco garage-scene poster boy Ty Segall has teamed up with White Fence’s Tim Presley to create what is possibly the best album of the recent Bay Area garage-rock boom so far.  Many albums similar to Hair use time-honored classic motifs more as a badge of sophistication than anything else, but on Hair, Segall and Presley come across less as arch record geeks than two kids kicking out good-humored jams with elements from the music they know and love.  Imitation Harrison guitars uncurl on “Time”; surf splutter gives “Crybaby” a nice tan; Dead-worthy solos occupy every inch of space the duo leave bare; and they’re more than happy to smear thick, steaming layers of guitar shit all over everything to remind you you’re not in the Sixties.  Hair is essentially idol worship, an amalgam of influences from all the bands the duo probably grew up listening to on classic rock radio as well as their peers on the scene.  Yet while many similar artists treat these influences as historical relics to be preserved, Segall and Presley pull them out of the earth and use them at will in one epic, time-collapsing jam session.
We Interrupt This Broadcast
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“What can I do to write a song,” ponders Mari Campos on “Song 101,” possibly the best song I’ve ever heard about writer’s block (most of which were written while the artists have writer’s block).  It’s ironic that this should be the among the better songs on We Interrupt This Broadcast, the debut by her band Sarchasm; though the album starts out brilliantly and likewise ends on a very high note, there’s a fairly long middle section of less inspired tunes that may tire out the listener before they reach the end, even despite intermittent moments of greatness.  But at their best, Sarchasm is a smart, savvy, scrappy punk band with solid hooks and a great singer in Campos, whose voice can best be described as casual more than bored or apathetic.  Her voice, combined with the songs’ smart lyrics and ska-punk lurch, is the album’s central anchor, but even with a lesser singer many of these songs would still stand tall: the slower number “Crimson Tears,” the tender closer “Graduation Day,” and the aforementioned “Song 101” are standouts.

Back To Reality EP
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I saw Tyler Stimpson perform with a band called Place Your Bets in late 2009, at a battle of the bands at Slim’s that essentially introduced me to the Bay Area music scene.  He was young but proficient, and I could tell he knew his way around a pop song.  A quarter of a decade later, Stimpson is frontman of a band called Minute 2 Midnight, writing tunes that aim for the airwaves and, for the most part, would not be out of place there at all.  The big star of Minute 2 Midnight’s debut EP Back To Reality is the fantastic “Tell Me,” whose urgent, ridiculously catchy chorus and surprisingly heavy guitars make it one of the best power-pop singles of the year so far by any Bay Area group.  The other tunes on Back To Reality are fairly standard pop songs, not insufferable by any means but lacking the catchiness of “Tell Me.”  But if they kept writing songs like that first firebomb, this band could expand well beyond the Bay Area music scene, let alone their native San Ramon.

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