The live album is a strange beast to master. As the dichotomy goes, they’re either proof that a band is a whole other animal in the room or they’re a runoff of company funds filling pockets of air between studio slabs. You’re either ponying up Live/Dead, Live at Budokon, or Last Waltz territory or hogging a heap of our precious time. The exception, perhaps being archival sets like Castle Face’s Live in SF series, but that’s more along the lines of a parting gift to those who were there and a tease to those who weren’t. Those are tantamount to official bootlegs and that’s a whole other discussion. Approaching a true live album takes a certain amount of bold confidence that the alchemy created in the room can crawl out of the speakers without necessitating the packed bodies, the magnetism of performers, and the glare of the lights. The notification that a beloved artist approaches the live album puts a lump in the throat, eh?
Then again, we’re not all casually calling up Steve Albini to run the tapes. We’re not all Ty Segall – long a live draw no matter what configuration has been hammering behind him. We don’t all have the Freedom Band at our beck and call, as heavy a crew as he’s had to tangle his tracks into fuzz-crusted chaos than ever before. Deforming Lobes is no schedule filler, it’s a testament to road-worn rock and the transformative power a room full of hungry hounds yowlin’ for Ty to turn his ecstatic catalog into a sonic assault. Its one of the rare instances that a live album warrants second and third listens.
What’s best said about the impact of the album is probably what he left out, rather than what he left in. For a man with a mile-long discography that hits a halt at his recently released nineteen-tracker, Freedom’s Goblin, the trackist is lean, scraping only eight tracks, with one of them a cover of the Groundhogs’ “Cherry Red.” With the opportunity to get indulgent, the band opts to cut their set down to a molten core, snagging tracks from only a handful of studio satchels and focusing in heavy on Emotional Mugger and Twins with each grabbing two tracks to represent. What they leave in they offer up as a volume-soaked proof of purchase, eight racks of unrepentant damage that leave a scorch mark on the turntable. I’ve seen Ty everywhere from a basement to packed 700-seater and this album hits like a shockwave to the sternum. It makes a good case for keeping the format around.
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