Barring any late-season surprises, 2020 will pass without a new Ty Segall album, something that’s only happened in one other year since his 2008 debut. Of course, even an off year for the industrious California rocker still requires periodic updates of his Discogs page: Segall kicked off 2020 by unveiling a new noise project, Wasted Shirt, with Lightning Bolt’s Brian Chippendale, and he killed some quarantine time by recording an EP of skewed Harry Nilsson covers. Now, in lieu of a proper Segall record, we have the next best thing: a new album from Fuzz, the psych-metal power trio he formed in 2011 with longtime accomplice Charles Moothart. After dropping two albums in quick succession mid-decade, Fuzz seemed to go the way of so many Segall side projects, in that it took the backseat to yet more side projects, like GØGGS and the C.I.A. But Fuzz’s return after a half-decade hiatus is fortuitously timed: After Segall swore off making guitar-based music with 2019’s bouzouki ’n’ koto-speckled First Taste, Fuzz marks his return to raw, guitar-powered rock music (technically, anyway—in Fuzz, he plays the drums while Moothart does the heavy six-string lifting).
With III, Fuzz hit the reset button. On their 2015 double album II, Segall, Moothart, and bassist Chad Ubovich stretched the parameters of their proto-metal sound in all directions like a game of Cat’s Cradle played with a rubber band, but on III, everything snaps back into its original shape. There are no Eastern psychedelic flourishes, no string arrangements, no extended space-jazz odysseys, and no lead-vocal turns from Moothart or Ubovich. The focus is squarely on the trio’s elemental strengths: brontosaurus-sized riffs, maximal choogle, and Segall’s acidic melodies, which suggest John Lennon if he had spent the early ’70s hanging with Tony Iommi and Bobby Liebling instead of Elton John and Harry Nilsson. Essentially, what you get here is a Ty Segall album with a beefier bottom end, as the grungy Big Star strut of “Spit” and Thin Lizzied fuzz-punk blitz of “Mirror” snugly sidle up alongside recent Segall rippers like “Break a Guitar” and “She” at the unrulier end of his catalog.
As such, III feels more like a sequel to Segall’s sludgetastic 2019 live set Deforming Lobes than Fuzz’s II. And as Deforming Lobes proved, when it comes to documenting a band in its most natural, primal state, there’s no one better to have on hand than Steve Albini, who captures the action here in a crisp audio-verité style that brings this group’s insolent personality to the fore. Even though Fuzz revel in amped-up aggression and bone-crushing heft, their energy is ultimately less macho than mischievous: The marauding opener “Returning” is both as comforting as a wood-paneled rec room and as complicated as a calculus quiz, frequently locking into a stuttering break as if the song were being tazed. On “Nothing People,” the trio send a propulsive Can rhythm crashing headlong into an oncoming Grand Funk boogie, but drop in an uncanny “oooh oooh oooh” hook to soothe the impact. And even when Fuzz veer perilously close to lapsing into blues-rock convention—as in the noodly opening tract of the two-part “Time Collapse”—the musicians seem hyper-aware of their transgression, and deploy everything in their arsenal (be it Segall’s glammy vocal exultations, Ubovich’s restless rhythms, or Moothart’s increasingly outré noise textures) to shake it off.
Albini’s live-off-the-floor, overdub-resistant recordings really bring a visceral punch to III’s jammier passages, ensuring that the moments where Moothart peels off for a solo are just as much a showcase for the rhythm section rumbling underneath. And where II’s 13-minute title-track closer saw Fuzz drifting aimlessly out into the unknown, III rallies for a satisfying full-circle finale with “End Returning,” which, over its seven-minute span, cycles through doomy
Read More: Fuzz: III Album Review | Pitchfork