Horn the Unicorn

by Ty Segall

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about

Ty Segall released tapes? Who knew …
Well I guess someone knew; they sold out A-to-the-SAP, quicker than a Sunn O))) LP.

Now, so’s us not in the aforementioned Know can get our shit in gear, HBSP-2X Records out of Chicago — can someone please tell me what that stands for? — comes out Hard with Horn of Unicorn, a 20-track album curating two cassettes (one of them a split with Superstitions called Halfnonagon), a 7-inch on Goodbye Boozy Records, a few sweet-16/teen dream/early day Segall recordings and tandem unreleased gems: “I Got Stoned” and “The Frog.”

Did I mention this boot-strapper comes correct on light, sea-foam-blue vinyl? Oh god I think I’m gonna squirt …

Back to business: This unicorn, if that is its real name, is spending too much time getting high and not enough time balancing out those recording levels. The cassette cuts belt out that boombox brand of bass you just can’t fake, but its levels are never, ever consistent. If one tune buzzes and heaves the next hisses and hummmmmmmms …

Suffice to say if the songs themselves weren’t phenomenal there’s no way this shit would fly. Then again, you could say that about just about every peer of Segall’s I can think of. (Oh Sees? Intelligence? Black Time? It’s a scene, man! Man?)

Thanks to sturdy songs, this altogether-creaky compendium cuts the mustard even though it recycles a lot of material from the now-infamous self-titled jaunt. What’s more, the previously released stuff lends a new lens to songs we’ve all gotten used to in a certain context. There’s a lot less reliance on reverb, echo and tambourine and a lot more bass, static and sketchy microphone use.

I think it works as an integral part of this package, but for me — and a lot of others — the prime rib of this body is material hereto unheard, like this Bbbbbonkers take on Floyd’s “Bike,” done up in falsetto lipstick, California chords and punk spikes, and the psych-heavy nod-out of “I Got Stoned,” a sleepy-eyed ditty with Segall’s patented ’50s riffs and a lot of fun tricks to boot.

A song from Halfmonagon is supposed to close out Side 1 of the LP, but it doesn’t. I suspect an error somewhere on the album jacket. Either way I’m going to have to stop pondering this and move on, so move on I will. Side 2 is a lot more kitchen-sink, a lot more chaotic and a lot looser.
And a lot better. “Booksmarts” cashes in an even crappier knob-job than the stuff on Side 1 and still brings home the bacon, coasting on a different brand of vocal delivery from Segall and a lovely sound-felch of effects at the end.

From there the hits keep coming. “Ms. White” takes the Coach Express to rock ‘n’ roll bliss and doesn’t spare the Whip, thrashing so hard you won’t know what to do with yourself if you’re not hearing it in a dingy club with 20 or so like-minded blokes while a firehose blasts you back. “(…and then) Judy Walked In” is a puzzling instrumental with enough personality to charm its way through my filler filter, and “Love You” sees a tender, 16-year-old Segall as he first carves his destiny out.

He really didn’t sound too bad back then, certainly not as bad as most of us did at that age, if we even tried. The howling plea at the end gets all sappy like you might expect from such a young ‘un, and since it’s surrounded by so many quality offerings you’ll be happy to indulge in a quainter side of Segs even if “Love You” does run about two minutes too long.

“I Don’t Know My Name” finally smoke-signals the beginning of the Halfnonagon portion with giant huffs and puffs, lurching from the speakers with generally the same speed and velocity as the rest of the pitter-patter found in Horn of Unicorn.

Which is to say it’s gigantic and totally must-have shit. The second unreleased cut, “The Frog,” is curio with creeeeeepy vocals and more steady riffage, but it doesn’t quite have the mojo of “I Got Stoned” or a lot of the other songs. It’s a skipper.

Then for some reason we skip back to Halfnonagon with “The Happy Farmer” (and I’m still waiting to hear “Sweets”).

Whatever, it’s all blending together at this point; Side 2′s beginnings and the last few selections of Side 1 are much more interesting, rendering the last few songs a tailspin of sorts.

OH SHIT THERE’S ANOTHER SONG AND I THINK IT’S “SWEETS.”
Cool; this is another amazing halt-strum-halt march-a-long that jumps into the red with a vengeance.

Now that I’ve solved the mystery of “Sweets” it’s time to blog this daddy (fuck this post is long) and get down to finishing my Novel about a twee mormon kid in Florida dealing with big-city realities.

Of course I’ll probably just end up listening to more records …
-Gumshoe

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