Fudge Sandwich is a fun 40 minutes that takes us through Segall’s psychic jukebox.
Covers albums are tricky business. On one hand, are they needed? There is an argument that the best version of a song, is the version by the songwriter. They had the original idea in their head and know how it should sound and feel. There is another argument, that just because someone wrote a song, it doesn’t mean that it should be the definitive version. Changing the vocals or arrangement can give it a whole different feel and vibe. Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Halleluiah’ has been hailed as surpassing the original. The Cowboy Junkies take on ‘Sweet Jane’ includes rejected verses and takes on a different meaning because of it. But there are covers that are too close to the original. Oasis’ take on ‘My Generation’ comes to mind. If you aren’t going to change things, why bother covering it in the first place?
This is the dilemma that Ty Segall finds himself in with latest album Fudge Sandwich. Luckily the songs he picked, offer room for Seagall to stamp his own fuzzy, lo-fi charm to them. ‘Lowrider’ (War), ‘I’m a Man’ (Spencer Davis Group), ‘Isolation’ (John Lennon), ‘Hit It and Quit it’ (Funkadelic), ‘Class War’ (The Dils), ‘The Loner’ (Neil Young), ‘Pretty Miss Titty’ (Gong), ‘Archangel Thunderbird’ (Amon Düül II), ‘Rotten to the Core’ (Rudimentary Peni), ‘St. Stephen’ (Grateful Dead) and ‘Slowboat’ (Sparks). The fact that Segall has picked these 11 songs says more about him as a person than as a musician. If this was a mixtape or compilation, it would be pretty eclectic and sound great on a road trip or party.
What Fudge Sandwich does really well is make you forget that these are covers. ‘Lowrider’ is a slow sludgy affair, compared to the upbeat original. This change in tempo is a masterstroke. No one really wants to hear Segall cover ‘Lowrider’ as it was, apart from a few diehards, instead, by warping it into an undulating mess he’s given it new meaning and a new lease of life. The same can be said for ‘The Loner’. In his hands, it becomes the psychotic garage stomper it always should have. He takes Neil Young’s killer melodies and stories of outsiders and turns it into something far more menacing. If this is how Young had originally conceived the song, it would have appeared on countless Nuggets compilations. The only songs where things don’t go to plan is ‘Class War’ by the Dils and ‘Rotten to the Core’ but Rudimentary Peni. This is because Segall’s versions are far too close to the originals, so there isn’t really anywhere he can take them. The real fun comes when Segall just cuts loose and doesn’t care, ‘Isolation’ and ‘Archangel Thunderbird’ being prime examples of this.
Fudge Sandwich is a fun 40 minutes that takes us through Segall’s psychic jukebox. It shows that you shouldn’t judge a musician by the music they make. But a few of the songs don’t really work and possibly an EP/mini album might have suited these songs better. Maybe this should have stayed as a sandwich rather than the main course.