Ty Segall – Fudge Sandwich
Released October 26, 2018
Psychedelic garage rock revivalist Ty Segall is a lo-fi gift that keeps on giving, boasting five releases in 2018 alone, with cover album Fudge Sandwich among them. It’s an album composed entirely of cover songs, with Segall’s take on the selection of classics ranging from strictly faithful to wholly unique. Segall did this album as a fun side project, so expectations are to be set low. It should appeal to fans of Segall, but it would be difficult to recommend it to fans of the bands he covers.
“Low Rider” is an industrial take on War’s iconic funk song (AKA the “George Lopez” theme song). It sounds like a lost Marilyn Manson tape from the Antichrist Superstar era, with the sinister vocals and blaring synth drawing out the dark side of a cheery song. It’s hard to imagine Cheech and Chong bumping this in the Love Machine, unless they ditched the ganja for crack rocks.
“I’m a Man” is much more faithful to the original than the “Low Rider” cover, albeit this one is drowning in distortion. Segall’s vocals are manic, and the guitar work elevates the cover into noisy glory. The outro guitar solo/freakout is (predictably) much more over-the-top than the Spencer Davis Group original. Outside of the outro, not much is special about this.
John Lennon’s “Isolation” is covered next, with Segall swapping Lennon’s calm melancholy for a playfully dark tone. The piano in the original is now a heavy guitar crunch. Segall’s vocals are a fun take on Lennon’s delivery, making it the standout element of the track. It’s fairly close to the original, just with a fuzzed-out, guitar-driven approach.
Next up is Funkadelic’s “Hit It and Quit It”. It’s a hard task to add any energy to the original song, having already being a psychedelic freak-out track. The only thing left to do is to just play faster, which Segall does. Segall puts a fast-paced, punk spin on the original, a trick he’ll repeat more than once on this album. However, it’s not a very successful trick because the original songs tend to lose their identity in the noise and pace of Segall’s playing.
The fast-paced punk song “Class War” by 70s punk band The Dils gets an acoustic treatment from Segall. Segall transforms the Dils’ noisy call-to-arms into a folksy political protest out of Woodstock. Not a standout track, but entertaining based on the side-by-side comparison of the original and this cover.
Neil Young’s “The Loner” is the next target, a song already punctured with distorted guitar lines. What’s Segall to do? Louder, faster is the answer. Much like “Hit It and Quit It”, Segall takes a song with a preexisting edge and speeds it up to being nigh-unrecognizable with the original. This isn’t a bad thing, but it doesn’t make for an entirely memorable cover.
Gong’s somber ‘60s track “Pretty Miss Titty” has muted vocals, a midtempo pace, and a little bit of noise accompanying it. Segall keeps the pace and gives the song a “bigger” feel. He brings the vocals to the front and lays off the noise. The cover sounds like a cut off of The White Album, feeling more like a Lennon cover than “Isolation.”
Much like “I’m a Man”, Krautrock band Amon Düül II’s “Archangel Thunderbird” is ripe for Segall to cover. It’s a heavy rock song with the “I am a golden god” vocals typical of ‘70s singers (Robert Plant, Geddy Lee). Segall doesn’t try to mess with the formula too much on this one, staying faithful to the original. Of course, the instrumental is much more fuzzed out. The vocals here are pretty close to the original, too. An enjoyable cover, but it’s hard to not just spring for the original since nothing too unique is offered by this cover.
Segall’s cover of ‘80s deathrock band Rudimentary Peni’s “Rotten to the Core” offers better production value than the original, so you don’t need to crank the volume all the way up to feel the power. Segall’s vocals closely capture Nick Blinko’s wailing. Not much new is offered outside of sounding better than the original.
The hippie dream in Grateful Dead’s “St. Stephen” turns into a nightmare in Segall’s version. Faster and louder, naturally. Much like “The Loner”, it sounds more like a regular Segall song with someone else’s lyrics. Not very memorable, but it goes hard.
Gentle rock song “Slowboat” from Sparks stays gentle when Segall does it. Probably the best “faithful” cover Segall does on the album. Segall adds a bit of a floaty country twang in his guitar work, which elevates the song. This may be the best song on the album, having a more “epic” feel than the original.
Fudge Sandwich is a fun album, but not a good one. There are a couple of successful covers in here, and a couple of duds. The biggest factor in determining the quality for Segall is the approach, and whether or not the song welcomes that approach. The songs that take the “up the tempo and distortion” approach like “The Loner” and “St. Stephen” don’t stand out at all. “Low Rider” and “Class War”’s unconventional and detached approach from the originals are entertaining. His faithful covers are hit or miss, shown by the incredible “Slowboat” and the uninspired “Archangel Thunderbird”. Of all the songs covered, “Slowboat” feels like the only one to outdo the original one.
A few high points dragged down by too much distortion, Fudge Sandwich is recommended to those who are already fans of Segall and fuzzed-out garage rock. Segall’s choice to offer a variety of approaches to covering songs is admirable, but he more often than not leans on the uninteresting approaches.