Wrapping It Up
Memphis-connected garage-rock collections put a bow on 2011.
The Memphis-based Goner Records label concludes another great year with a pair of dense compilations from two of the label’s and its related garage/punk scene’s most impressive recent artists, Ty Segall and Eddy Current Suppression Ring.
As a preternaturally gifted young musician who has been known to go the one-man-band route, Segall has been compared widely to late Memphis garage/punk titan Jay Reatard. He has a chance to pick up — artistically and commercially — where Reatard left off. Indeed, Segall’s Singles 2007-2010 is reminiscent of, if less focused than, the two compilations Reatard released — Singles ’06-’07 and Matador Singles ’08 — between his two proper solo albums.
But this evolution-marking compilation suggests some contrasts. Despite Segall hailing from San Francisco and Reatard being reared in the home of the blues, Segall’s music is much bluesier. On early cuts such as “It” and “Sweets,” in particular, he sounds more like a proto Jack White than a Reatard inheritor, while later stuff, like the set-closing Gories cover “I Think I’ve Had It,” offers a more metallic, dissonant take on Bo Diddley and rockabilly. Segall’s music also feels less personal and less fraught than Reatard’s, sticking to an occasionally inspired formalism that also suggests White.
Segall’s most recent album, Goodbye Bread, was on Chicago’s Drag City label, but he had previously released two full-lengths — 2009’s Lemons and 2010’s Melted — on Goner, and this 25-song collection — one CD or two LPs — is culled from a variety of out-of-print releases and unreleased tracks, including some demo versions of songs from Lemons.
Rather than trending toward melodicism and polish, as you might expect from a four-year snapshot of a young rocker, this stays decidedly noisy and lo-fi throughout.
For people who operate more on the fringes of the Goner/garage scene, the Australian quartet Eddy Current Suppression Ring has been the label’s great recent non-Memphis find.
Goner has released all three of the band’s albums — 2009’s Primary Colours, 2010’s Eddy Current Suppression Ring (a later re-release of their earlier Australian debut), and 2010’s Rush to Relax — in the United States. Depending on how you define the term, both Primary Colours and Rush to Relax were among the very best indie-rock records of their respective years. In a down year, even So Many Things, a 22-song collection of singles, demos, and other odds and ends (like the Segall comp, one CD or two LPs) might deserve the same designation.
The band is more post-punk than garage/punk, their bracing guitar rock functioning in the same way — if not exactly sounding like — such arty but unpretentious bands as Wire, the Feelies, and Television.
So Many Things has a wider chronological range than the Segall material, starting with a three-song single from 2004, the opening title track: an intriguingly out-of-character comic, anti-romantic spoken rant with skronk accompaniment (“I’m moving on without you and your sexy body . . . don’t call me any more . . . I’m a brave young lad who doesn’t need you,” they testify, unconvincingly) that segues immediately, with “Get Up Morning,” into the kind of insistent, rhythmic rave-ups more common on their official albums. It concludes with a couple of 2011 tracks, including a fun, rumbling Record Store Day cover version of the Go-Go’s ’80s touchstone “We Got the Beat.”
While not on Goner, Memphis native Greg Cartwright is as connected to the label and its scene as possible. He joined Goner founder Eric Friedl and Jack Yarber in the seminal scene band the Oblivians, owned the Goner Records location (as Legba Records) before it became Goner, and recorded a live album at the shop. Cartwright’s born-in-Memphis band the Reigning Sound also has new music out in the form of Abdication, an eight-song, 22-minute EP that’s available free as a download through Scion A/V (scionav.com).
Abdication was recorded in Nashville with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach producing most tracks (Auerbach has also been working with another Memphis native, Valerie June), and the opening track, “Lyin’ Girl,” motorvates with more assurance than anything the band has released since Cartwright left Memphis after 2004’s Too Much Guitar.
If Cartwright is one of this genre’s signature talents, his post-Oblivians music suggests a musicality broader than his fan base, with equal foundations in mid-’60s soul and chiming Byrdsian rock. Despite its brevity, Abdication showcases Cartwright’s range, blending those tones on the fuzzy, soaring “Shaw” while unleashing an R&B bottom on the following “Call Me #1.”