Multi-instrumentalist Ty Segall is currently on cruise control. The guy has been on a roll releasing projects over the past couple of months. With two months to go in the year, the indie/punk rocker released his fifth studio album of 2018, Fudge Sandwich, a record featuring eleven cover songs, all from bands that have inspired him throughout his illustrious career.
Segall incorporates his quirkiness on each track, while also maintaining the original charm from the initial recordings. It’s a tough balance that every artist must face when creating a cover album. Either add something to the production that’s never been heard before, or fall into the abyss of conspicuous fandom without any notable changes to the aesthetic. Essentially, this becomes flat-out plagiarism, which is something few artists would ever want to be known for.
Luckily, Segall has a lot of fun with this, something he wanted to accomplish when he spoke about it prior to the release. Compared to most albums from the multi-instrumentalist, Fudge Sandwich still falls into an experimental category. Just take the intro track “Low Rider” (originally by the band War) as an example. The raspy vocals and drawn-out distorted synth create this new dimension not seen within Segall’s dense discography. The booming base in the middle only enhances the menacing tone he’s going for, specifically when there’s a break in the chorus.
Albums like these can be very enlightening, specifically when it comes to their influences. It’s definitely safe to say that Segall is heavily influenced by the artists from the late 60s to early 70s. His funkadelic approach to his music has fundamentally represented that notion over the years, but never so clear as it is now.
The updated version of John Lennon’s single “Isolation,” becomes massively enhanced through the addition of a more prevalent electric guitar. Segall’s cadence definitely checks in as more imminent, notably when he uses that nostalgic growl that’s made him so famous in the first place. Not to mention, his song choice features a wide range of different personalities and melodies, making the project even more exciting and diverse at every turn.
Segall’s one large fault occurs when he’s over-doing the instrumental choices. The guitar solo is so overbearing on “St. Stephen,” that you’ll almost forget what the original version from Grateful Dead sounded like. This was one of the few instances where the layered production doesn’t augment into anything substantial. The balance is unfortunately absent for a split second.
Segall does pick back up with an acoustic version of the Sparks’ song, “Showboat.” The track is nothing more than a legitimately great epilogue, especially with the askew lo-fi vocals he adds at the very end. Comparatively, both the original and Segall’s version sound very similar, probably more similar than any of the other songs chosen. But his style fits the part, and Segall is smart enough to understand that not much needs to be further added to the overall makeup. The way he lengthens his range still stands out however, making for an entertaining finale to probably one of his least experimental records.
Most of the time, artists need a break because of either writers’ block, or something else happening in their life (i.e. starting a family or going on vacation). Segall doesn’t stop the engine. He’s always working, and wants to keep making music until he’s most likely unable too. Fudge Sandwich was his fifth album of 2018, and his most amusing one at that. Not because he re-invented the wheel or anything, but because we learned a little bit more about him. In a weird way, this is Ty Segall taking a break. He’s not making anything original, but rather giving fans insight on what makes the wheels turn.