On last year’s Goodbye Bread, garage-rock singer-songwriter Ty Segall displayed a newfound sense of maturity — most notably on “Comfortable Home (A True Story),” in which he announced the rather adult decision to invest in some real estate. Now the San Francisco wunderkind prematurely grapples with his own mortality on his newest solo release. “Took 22 years to die / 22 years to lose to my mind,” he laments amid the grinding guitars of “Ghost,” imagining himself as a specter who haunts the California coast. It’s heavy stuff — musically and lyrically — especially from a guy who used to sing about girlfriends and Coca-Cola.
In light of his third release in just a year’s time, the ever-prolific garage/lo-fi wunderkind Ty Segall has just released a video for his new single, “The Hill,” a psychedelic throwback to VHS spliced together by the man himself over a series of three days. Think John Lennon singing over the grimy distortions of Big Business or Lightning Bolt…in a bear/dog/eagle costume.
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New Jersey-based post-hardcore band Thursday just released No Devolución, its sixth full-length album and second on Epitaph. The band’s lead singer, Geoff Rickly, is also involved in a side project called United Nations, in which he’s the only officially listed member, due to its various members’ contractual obligations. The music occupies the same hardcore-punk territory as Thursday and features comedic lyrical contributions from Daily Show correspondent Kristen Schaal. Before it was turned away by multiple retailers, its self-titled debut from 2008 originally featured a modified version of The Beatles‘ Abbey Road cover art. Here, Rickly explains his longtime interest in the Fab Four.
Ten Absurd and Wonderful Songs by The Beatles by Geoff Rickly
When I was just a boy, my mother would sometimes drop me off at my Nana’s house in Connecticut, kiss me goodbye, and rush off to work. It was one of my favorite places in the world: the way the sun came through the porch and made patterns on the curtains, the way there were treats of every possible variety (coffee cake, waffles, bacon, etc.), and, most of all, the way that my Nana had no regard for material things like money, possessions, security, or savings accounts. She would often say to my mother, “Enjoy it, Patty, you can’t take it with you.”
Case in point: my mother’s complete collection of The Beatles’ records. My Nana saw no harm in letting me play whatever record I wanted on my cheap, blue-and-yellow plastic Fischer Price record player. It completely broke my Mom’s heart that I ruined those records, but I think she was able to laugh about it proudly when it became clear, many years later, that I was devoting my life to a passion for music. A passion that started with destroying those records.
Being that I started my love for The Beatles at the age of four, I’ve always been drawn to the most absurd, childlike, and wondrous tracks by the Fab Four. Here are my favorites.
1. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!”
Nothing conjures the joy and mania of a grand circus like the multi-ring narrative of “Mr. Kite.” The wide cast of mysterious characters like Mr. K, Mr. H, Henry the Horse, and the Hendersons dances, sings, and spins its way through Bishop’s gate and hoops of fire, while the band cartwheels through the pomp of a traveling circus band. The crowning achievement of the song is John Lennon announcing the proceedings in the disaffected eloquence of a tired but consummately professional carnival barker.
By the end of the 1960s, The Beatles had been absent from any kind of live performance for years. This supposed retirement from commercial concerts, however, never fully quelled speculation that the group could return to the stage in some way. Of the various conjectured shows, none held more what-if potential than a rumored collaboration between the Fab Four and German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.
According to a vague report noted in a biography by author Michael Kurtz, Stockhausen was said to have arranged a meeting with one of The Beatles at his New York apartment in 1969 to discuss a joint concert, but a blizzard ultimately kept the two parties apart. Between Paul McCartney occasionally citing a fascination with Stockhausen’s “Gesang der Junglinge” in interviews, The Beatles including a image of him in the cover crowd of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and John Lennon’s “Revolution 9” getting regular critical comparisons to Stockhausen’s Hymnen, The Beatles and Stockhausen maintained at least a shred of connectivity to make such a collaboration possible.
Though the rendezvous, like most hearsay, has been proven to be devoid of truth, fiction has never gotten in the way of inspiration. Such is the case with avant-garde ensemble Alarm Will Sound and its most recent work, 1969. Mixing musical composition, scripted acting, audio dialogue, and archival video, the group’s live production uses the myth of the would-be collaboration as a jumping-off point to examine a time period rife with political, artistic, and social change. ALARM recently spoke with the ensemble’s conductor, Alan Pierson, to discuss the new work, its combination of history and falsehood, and why the year of 1969 was such a big deal.
Let me ask you about 1969. How did this concept develop?
We had been working on this for a long time. In a way, it goes back to those composer portraits as one-composer concerts. Those sorts of concerts, we felt, were a really good way for us to be developing our reputation in New York. But at a certain point, we felt like we wanted to do something broader than that. What I liked about the composer portraits was that they were a way of creating a contemporary music concert that really felt like an event, rather than just a collection of pieces.
There was a really special kind of vibe that you got when you had people walking into a hall to experience an entire evening of Steve Reich or of György Ligeti. The question was “How [do we] create that kind of experience with a broader repertoire?” and “What is a way to bring together really different kinds of music in a coherent framework?”
We did a couple of things along those lines. We did a show called Odd Couples at Carnegie Hall in 2006, which I think was really successful. But as we started brainstorming ideas for concerts, one thing I started thinking about was this idea of doing music of a single year and using a period of time as a way to connect really different kinds of music. Nineteen sixty-nine just emerged pretty quickly in that process as a really interesting time to look at. In the process of looking at that more deeply, I stumbled on this story of the planned meeting between Stockhausen and The Beatles, and it just seemed like too great a story not to tell.