Ty Segall is a name unlikely to be foreign to many modern alternative rock fans. Forging his legacy in psych-garage (both solo and in Fuzz), Segall’s name became synonymous with the genre along with the likes of Thee Oh Sees/Osees and King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. As the brood of this big three have come of age and started saturating the market with a slurry of imitations, the artists themselves have continued to find new ground. Three Bells, Segall’s 15th studio album, continues this trend.

Segall’s influences from 60s and 70s songwriters isn’t exactly surprising – the fuzzed-out psych-garage template quite obviously calls back to this era – but Segall’s inspiration from other genres from this same era is a refreshing addition. 2022’s Hello, Hi saw Segall take a heavy heap of folk to the formula, and whilst it’s still floating around on Three Bells, it’s a little more dissolved. The music here sounds cosmic at moments. The way the bass glides like a spacewalk on ‘Reflections’, the way verses materialise on ‘Void’, it feels like the titular bells are ringing out into the vastness of space. An obvious reference point is T. Rex – the spaciness of ‘Cosmic Dancer’ and the crackling rock of ‘20th Century Boy’ are equally present in what Segall puts forward here.

It didn’t take Three Bells to out Segall as a musical wanderer. He is on a run of albums that have seen him explore whatever facet he takes a fancy to. Three Bells, in my mind, sees him collate all of it in a way that doesn’t feel like he’s scrunched them all up and held them together with glue and toothpicks. ‘Wait’ tears away from it’s lowkey folk-rock opening without ever feeling like two conjoined songs, instead taking its roots and ripping them out, kicking up a tonne of dirt in the process. Segall wisely avoids sounding anachronistic, too. This combination of influences could sound like the album had lain dormant since the 70s only to jolt to life now. It never does, though. I think this is primarily because Segall’s personality is so soaked into the record that it’s never really a question as to whose music this is. Segall isn’t doing an impression of his record collection, or of himself. He’s just funnelling what he likes through how he makes music and it’s refreshing.

That last point is something a lot of Segall/Osees/KGLW imitators could do with learning. So many bands sound like they’re a tribute band to these lofty psych/garage records and pick up all the surface details – two drummers, vocal effects, a shouted ‘WOO’ to punctuate a verse or chorus. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with that – I enjoy it as much as anyone else, it’s a combination that works for a reason, it’s infectiously fun – but I can’t help but feeling like it’s predicated on identifying as a psych-garage band going in. Ty Segall never feels like a parody, imitation or tribute and I think that is what has allowed him to get to his status as a hero of the alternative rock space.

With all that said, Three Bells might not be an album I’ll return to that often. For me, it’s a little long and not all of it lands for me. Importantly, though, it is one I admire for reflecting where Segall is at right now in his career. The cover is a fitting interpretation of the album in my view – Three Bells sees Segall refracted through a deep well of influences, and though occasionally distorted, his silhouette is instantly recognisable throughout.

Ty Segall: Three Bells – Out 26th January 2024 (Drag City)

Segall “My Best Friend” (Official Music Video) (youtube.com)