Pity the poor live album. In the era of streaming video, smartphones, and extensive fan-driven digital archiving, their utility has diminished. Amid so much constantly accumulating data, it’s difficult for a single concert—particularly one that you did not personally attend—to feel at all remarkable. And let’s be real: the old problems remain unresolved. With the exception of the Grateful Dead, no band’s live record is its best record.
Castle Face Records’ Live in San Francisco series is an outlier, though. It’s not so much about a single artist as a whole scene. Over the last couple of years, the label has released a number of concert recordings capturing the bests acts in—or intimately involved with—the Bay Area’s garage and psych-rock community, including sets from OBN IIIs, White Fence, and Icky Boyfriends. The performances are usually recorded to a Tascam 388 tape machine, which imbues the recordings with a grit-heavy feel that’s not too distant from the band’s “studio” albums.
Ty Segall Band’s Live in San Francisco is the fifth installment in the series. This isn’t his first live record (that was 2011’s Live in Aisle Five) and it’s not even his first appearance in the series (his prog-loving side project, Fuzz, was also included), but it’s an important addition. Along with Castle Face co-founder John Dwyer and his band Thee Oh Sees, Segall was a defining voice in the city’s late ’00s garage rock bubble and he and Dwyer are also, arguably, its most popular exports. And while it’s clear that Segall is prolific—he’s put out a double LP and a singles collection just within the last six months—this record isn’t filler.
Like a garage-rock version of Prince, Segall performs almost all of the music on his LPs alone, yet his live band—which includes drummer Emily Rose Epstein, guitarist Charles Mootheart, and bassist Mikal Cronin—is no joke. Having toured extensively for the last four years, they’ve tightened up into a be-all, end-all rock’n’roll group with the volatility and spirit to match choice ’70s sweathogs like the Coloured Balls or Groundhogs.
The set list draws heavily from 2011’s full-band album, Slaughterhouse, along with a few of the heavier cuts from the last handful of Segall’s solo records. These live takes are, for the most part, harsher, nastier, and faster than their studio versions. The song “Feel” appeared on last year’s double LP Manipulator with a considerably more polished presentation. The version on Live in San Francisco is unhinged—abandoning nuance for five minutes of gale force choogle.
Some of the other entries in Castle Face’s live series have encouraged spontaneity via covers or drawn-out jams. Regrettably, there’s not much of that to be found on Live in San Francisco. Here Segall and his band perform the songs pretty much as written, only louder. It isn’t Segall’s best record, but it’s worthwhile if only in that it documents the whole crew playing together at the peak of their ability.
And because, you know, why stop there: this month also sees the release of Segall’s Mr. Face EP. On Manipulator, Segall attempted to dial in an ambitious high-gloss classic rock masterpiece, complete with string section. Mr. Face is more or less back to business as usual—four songs that find Segall returning to the hazy mid-fi sound of his 2010 LP, Melted.
Available digitally and also as a pair of 7” singles—which come with 3D glasses—the four songs are pleasant enough, but in comparison to the unruly sounds on Live in San Francisco, it feels like a bit of an afterthought. At this point, Segall can write this kind of lightly dazed, psychedelic pop with about as much effort as most people expend while checking their e-mail. If anything, Mr. Face is enough to tide you over until the next Segall record which, as always, can’t be all that far off.
from Album Reviews – Pitchfork http://ift.tt/14ZLhfD