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Reverse Shark Attack by Ty Segall & Mikal Cronin

Given that he released three excellent albums in 2012, it’s understandable that Ty Segall’s first album of 2013 is a re-release. Originally released only on vinyl in 2009, Reverse Shark Attack finds Segall working with frequent collaborator Mikal Cronin. Both are prolific garage-rock, singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists, active in multiple bands, and have released solo music.

Reverse Shark Attack opens with “I Wear Black,” which is about as close to a classic song as Segall and Cronin can have, considering they have only been around for a couple of years. At just over two minutes, “I Wear Black” is an anthemic, super-distorted shot of garage/punk that sets the tone for the rest of the album.

Out of eight songs, only two of the first six are over two minutes. The only two songs on the album longer than two and a half minutes are a Pink Floyd cover and the 10-minute closing title track.

The first six songs/10 minutes of the album are a flurry of pounding drums, distorted guitars, and even more distorted vocals (If you can pick out more than the chorus or title of the song in any of the lyrics, let me know).

Other than the unusually long “Drop Dead Baby,” (two and a half minutes), none of the first six songs have more than a measure of intro before dropping into their main riff, or more than a few seconds of outro before the next song picks up.

The fourth track, “Ramona,” is 82 seconds of breakneck guitar and drums that comes into full swing after about two seconds of an intro. About a minute in, the guitars drop out for what seems like a reprieve, but then they come back in full force for a blistering solo until the whole thing stops on a dime and “Doctor Doctor” kicks in. That’s basically the pattern of the first six songs.

Despite his affection for distorting them beyond recognition, one of Segall’s main strengths is his vocals. From his baritone grumble on the chorus of “I Wear Black” to the falsetto interludes of “High School,” Segall has a knack for writing catchy vocal melodies and good harmonies with Cronin.

“Bikini Babes” rounds out the first six songs and leads into “Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk.” This song is apparently a Pink Floyd cover and very easily could have fooled me. The only thing about it that is significantly different than the first six songs is that the psych-freak out lasts two minutes longer than usual.

“Reverse Shark Attack” is the ten minute closing opus, and probably the best track on the album. It starts out as a kind of shambling, psych-folk song for about a minute and a half, then calms down to a strummed acoustic guitar and mostly un-distorted vocals (two firsts for the album). After a few minutes it shifts from acoustic to electric, clean to distorted, and then, all of a sudden, the whole thing shifts into a Dick Dale-on-acid surf rock jam. After four or five minutes of surf guitars and hectic drum fills, the song collapses under itself and the track and album draw to a close.

Despite being originally released four years ago, Reverse Shark Attack feels like a distillation of the aesthetic Segall trafficked in 2012. It has the psychedelic flavor of Hair (his collaboration with White Fence), the breakneck punk of Slaughterhouse (his album with Ty Segall Band, of which Mikal Cronin is a member), and some of the more melodic side explored on Twins, his solo release from 2012.
Segall combines garage, punk, and surf, infuses it all with some psychedelia, and then channels it through distortion until you have something that sounds like you’ve heard it before, but is still somehow unique. Reverse Shark Attack doesn’t reach the same heights as his trio of 2012 albums, but it’s a good look back if you’re already familiar with Segall and Cronin and a decent introduction for the uninitiated.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

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