I tend to think of the main traits of “heavy metal” music as being aggression and brutality, but listening to the debut album from Ty Segall’s new outfit, Fuzz, I’m reminded that the phrase originally meant something quite different. As coined in the 1960’s, the “heavy” part of the term denoted density and weightiness, whereas the “metal” descripter signified grinding machinery. (think of the rhythmic, milling onslaught of Noel Redding’s bass on the first few Jimi Hendrix records). That said, this is a much truer representation of “heavy metal” than the latest LP from any number of modern bands who’ve co-opted that phrase for their own purposes.
No offense intended – I love Metallica and Dimmu Borgir as much as anybody, but this is much closer to Steppenwolf or early Black Sabbath. The prolific Mr. Segall even sounds a bit like Ozzy on some of these songs. My ears aren’t what they once were, and the vocals here are especially lo-fi, but what I could make out sounds appropriately troubled, if a little sparse. I like that Segall doesn’t come right out and blatantly state what’s on his mind here. We have to listen and think along, and different songs will probably mean different things to different people. My biggest complaint regarding the lyrics, and the record as a whole, is that the guitars are so big and fuzzy and loud, and the vocals so low in the mix, it really is difficult to hear what’s being said.
At only 8 tracks and just over 36 minutes, it’s a little short, but I view that as a blessing in this particular circumstance. All of the tracks sound a bit alike, and it does start to feel a little grating by the time the album reaches it’s conclusion. That’s OK, It’s not meant to be easy listening, and I believe that the 3-piece band accomplished the mood and feeling that they were looking for on this record.
Since art, and especially music, is such a personal thing, that may be the truest gauge of a particular body of work’s merit – does it sound like what they meant it to? Some would debate that music is only as good as the mass-appeal it engenders. I hope that we can all agree that that’s a bunch of nonsense, but there is something to be said for a catchy melody.
While not “hooky”, per se, this record does have it’s share of memorable melodic moments. I particularly enjoyed the main guitar riff on “Loose Sutures” and subtle harmonies in “What’s In My Head”. With it’s soft-loud dynamic and repetitive refrain, I feel that the latter mention has the greatest chance to reach the widest audience, so if there’s only one song you’re able to listen to from this, “What’s In My Head” would be my recommendation. Otherwise, I believe that this would most appeal to listeners who enjoy Ty Segall’s other work, and those with a fondness for some of those early examples of Heavy Metal that I cited above.
editor’s note: The demand for Fuzz’s self-titled debut was so high that the LP quickly sold out and their distributor, In The Red, found it necessary to post this disclaimer – “We want to apologize for the lag time on our mail order the past several weeks. The volume of orders that we received on the new Fuzz release is unlike anything we’ve experienced before and it has slowed everything down.”