Everything old is new again.
Bay Area rocker Ty Segall has made a career out of making retro music sound like he invented it. While his latest release, Ty Segall ( on Drag City Records ), sounds like a bunch of things you've heard on vintage AM radio, it has a stinging kick that feels fresh and exciting. After whipping off nine solo full-lengths while participating in innumerable musical side projects ( among them Broken Bat, Fuzz, and GOGGS ) in a mere nine years, you would think he would run out of juice at some point. The new recording and two recent sold-out showsthe first on May 13 at The Metro and the second on May 14 at Thalia Hallclearly refute that.
The key to Segall's music is clearly the guitar, and though he is a multi-instrumentalist, he favors that above all others. He also seems to be in the throes of a hot romance with '70s hard, glam, psychedelic and arena rock, and he's clearly not shy about it.
The new "Break a Guitar" is the kind of sassy rocker that used to belong to The Sweet, though I doubt they would have ripped through the second half of the song with a wall of dueling guitars. "The Only One" starts out as a throbbing percussive march before revealing itself as a skeleton for, you guessed it, a scathing torrent of guitars. The first single, "Orange Color Queen" is an acoustic, lazy, hippie flavored ballad that would make Donovan teary eyed and is as sweet as the CD ever gets.
At Thalia Hall, the show got off to a loud start with openers Axis: Sova ( Tim Kaiser, Brett Sova and Jeremy Freeze, all on guitar ) greeting the sold out audience with slabs of murky guitar and passionate vocals.
After Segall quietly opened his set with the gentle "Goodbye Bread," he gleefully ripped into a sloppy but articulate version of "Break A Guitar." To say that the show was a ribald celebration of old school guitar slinging does not quite cover it all. With generous helpings of his new CD ( "Freedom," "The Only One," "Warm Hands" ) surrounded by older material ( "Candy Sam," "Your the Doctor" ), Segall and his Freedom Band ( Mikal Conin on bass, Emmett Kelly on guitar, Charles Moothart on drums, and Ben Boye on piano ) had a high old time playing with unchecked fury, but there was a minute attention to detail in the playing and in the arrangements that hinted at how gifted Segall really is. The feeling I got, despite the goofy grins, broken guitar strings, and that crumpled white suit ( which made him look like a boyish Colonel Sanders ), was that Segall knew exactly what he was doing.
The irony surrounding Australian rockers Midnight Oil is that they only seem to tour the United States when the country seems headed down the shitter. The last time the band came around was in 2002, a few months after 9/11. Nowjust days after the president of the United States has been accused of colluding with an opposing power to rig an already questionable election and laundering red moneya reunited Midnight Oil landed at The Vic Theater on May 18 to save us from ourselves.
This, of course, makes a lot of sense since this most bluntly political band has always been about activism. ( Typical topics include the environment, militarism, civil rights, the threat of nuclear war. ) The time also seemed right to release three massive retrospectives including The Vinyl Collection ( all of the studio LPs and CDs ), The Full Tank ( all of the CDs and music videos ), and The Overflow ( over fourteen hours of rare and unreleased material ).
Front man Peter Garrett mentioned early on that the issues the band sang about over a decade ago are still relevant which he felt was disturbing. He also had no kind words for our current President never mentioning him by name while greeting the rowdy crowd with "Hello Obama-Town!!!"
Kicking the show off with an haunting "The Outside World," Garrett and company ( Rob Hirst on drums, Martin Posey on lead guitar, Bones Hillman on bass, and Jim Moginie on guitar and keyboards ) didn't diddle about with small chit chat. Cracking, "There'll be no fake news tonight!!!," Garrett launched into a pointed "Short Term Memory" followed by "Read About It," and "Scream in Blue."
"The Power and the Passion," "Somebody's Trying to Tell Me Something," and "Ships of Freedom" were dramatic but they didn't prepare the packed house for a blistering rip through "Beds Are Burning" ( still one of the best hard rock songs to dance to ), a scathing "Blue Sky Mine," and a brutal "Dreamworld." By the way Garrett snarled the chorus, "Your dream world is JUST about to end!!!" it was clear that even after all this time he hadn't forgotten the raw rage that set this band apart from all others. ( Yes, Bono, I'm talking about you. )
With Garrett standing seemingly more than seven feet ( he is six feet four ), he still cuts an arresting figure with his "Mr. Clean"-do and zombie-stomp dancing. Amusingly with all that punk fury, when speaking with the audience, he was as chatty as a Brit debutante after her first biscuit and cup of Earl Grey at tea time.
The kicker for the night was the second encore, a surprisingly good-natured though intense "Sometimes," which can only be read as straight-up encouragement to keep fighting the "good fight." Although Midnight Oil has not recorded or touched down here in 15 years, the band could sense that we really needed to hear that.
Heads up: Queer rockers Absolutley Not have released their new video titled "Strictly Top," featuring cameos from Travis, Lucy Stoole, Bev Rage, Aaron Erhinger, Shannon Candy and Phillip Christian Swafford. The video is on NPR.