After a week in which the Secret Service’s control of the White House perimeter was in doubt… after a morning in which the Washington Post provided new details on Secret Service disarray… we decided to amble down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1400 Pennsylvania Avenue, if you are Michele Bachmann…) Everything seemed fine to us, right?
Ganglion Reef, the 35-minute long debut album by L.A.’s Wand is sonic DMT, a short, intense trip you can take on your lunch break and return to work with a slightly loopy smile on your face. The best psychedelica, like the best punk, always had a gooey core of pop music at its center, catchy melodies being just as important — maybe more important, given the heavy winds the music otherwise generates — than anything aimed right at radio programmers. And so it is with Wand, a band that can appeal to anyone who made a mixtape including both Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Even after powering through sludgy riffs that seem like a bulldozer plowing a highway in the Mariana Trench, they shift to some sweet-sounding harmonies bristling with hooks.
Why we are on the cutting edge o’ discovery here is Wand opened last week for Ty Segall, and we were sufficiently moved to go home and download the album at 1:00 AM. Live, Cory Hanson seems to wish he could graft the Eno-squall of “Re-Make/Re-Model” onto early Sonic Youth. Ganglion Reef, released in late August, showcases this incredibly gifted singer, songwriter, and guitarist who has a penchant for shifting into minor-key pretty stuff too. The album has the pacing of an Olivia Tremor Control opus, replete with song titles like “Fire On The Mountain (I-II-III),” and whether the songs are 6:09 of pulsating psyche or three-minute snappy radio rock, this is a debut that heralds perhaps the union’s next great band.
Of course the music appealed to Ty Segall, who has wrapped his arm around the band and taken them for a ride. Hanson has played with Mikal Cronin (they’re roommates in what seems like a group house you would either really want to live next to or nowhere near, depending on what hour the amps unplug), and let us just say that as fine a drummer as Ty is on his own recs, in Fuzz, or while actualizing the potential of White Fence, we would love it if he borrowed Evan Burrows for his next album, because on Wand’s debut, and certainly live, he channeled Keith Moon dueling with Kurt Dahle. Go download “Flying Golem,” with its chiming garage-rock guitars and Farfisa evocation of a golden age, and like eating a single potato chip, you will not be able to resist more. Like Oscar Wilde able to resist anything but temptation, we know you will press the buy button. You see, as Wand waves over you, magic ensues.
Last night at D.C.’s 930 Club, Ty Segall showed that the best songs on his new double album, Manipulator, are so many and strong that he can go for a 45-minute stretch before dipping into his glorious back catalogue. Beginning with the title track and ripping through “It’s Over,” “Feel,” and an electrified — and electrifying — version of “Green Belly,” it’s no wonder the audience took to lemming-like launches into the waiting arms of their sturdy compatriots, who passed them around the venerable club like so many sacks of ecstatic jute.
For the better part of the decade, Ty Segall has been a one-man tent revival preaching real rock’n’roll, jacked into the absurdly varied electrical circuit that brought us garage rock, psyche, metal and the Beatles, a melodic and propulsive reminder of what the genre, as it dies, once was capable of. And now he is hitting a city near you, toting his most commercially viable album ever, and putting on shows which, if last night is the par example, remind us all of what once was, and what still can be. When we say he’s been a one-man band, in the studio it’s true; as alway when playing live, longtime sidekicks Mikal Cronin, Charlie Moothart, and Emily Epstein prove they can kick forward and back too, an undulating mass of throbbing gristle and Twisted Sister hair playing the best punk rock on the planet.
From our vantage point — and we were smart enough to get upstairs — this was among the most tumultuous shows ever played at the 930 Club’s second incarnation. (We offer a pro tip to young ‘uns swept up in the crowd-surfing impulse: if you choose to dive from the stage after 30 of your cohort have gone before you, don’t hit precisely the same spot, as the audience will have tired arms and sweaty, slippery fingers.)
Readers who grant us the Talmudic inspection our writing deserves will know that while we believe Manipulator has a boodle of boss tracks on it, its overt play to get Black Keys-like radio love — by subverting, with the addition of newfound R&B riffs, Ty’s strong suit in melodic hard rock with punk’n’metal overtones — left us wondering if the delivery of what we once had wished for — the boy producing a solid slab o’ commercial potential — was a deviation from what we most enjoyed about this latest Savior of Rock’n’Roll. But last night was the clincher: the album is truly worthy. We’ve long predicted he had a future on the stage at the Verizon Center, and maybe this is the last time we will see him in a club the size of 930. But honestly, why — money aside — would you want to play Verizon, where they get huffy about crowd surfing, when you can fall back on the audience and they will carry you for a moment before gently returning you right back to the stage?
We were happy to hear the songs from his best album, Twins, and the songs from The Ty Segall Band’s Slaughterhouse were a reminder of a previous moment when it took the live set to reveal how great the album was. When we stepped out into the street, we felt like we’d survived the mayhem Ty unleashes. Mayhem and ear-to-ear grins. Hell, our ears were grinning too.