October 25th, 2015 | Album reviews

In The Red

And now comes the time for Fuzz to ask itself, “What is Fuzz? And who are Fuzz? And why is Fuzz? And can Laena Geronimo play strings on this?” (Yes to the last one, and it’s great!) With original Fuzz bassist Cosio departed and new Fuzz bassist Ubovich (the Chad in the Meatbodies) on deck, Ty Segall and heavy comrade Charles Mootheart have redoubled their efforts in pursuit of everything the band name implies, resulting of course in a double LP for their second album. But there are also visible attempts at doing something different here. The first Fuzz album (2013) was so effortlessly joyful, even with those lyrics about the sickness of isolation: it felt like three literate, articulate and even athletic musicians doing their instinctive best to just make … something … heavy, and like every heavy thing, it pulled you along with it. On II, that spirit’s still here. “Pollinate” (with its Leigh Stevens redline guitar solo) and “Bringer of Light” make a killer single lurking in the center of the record, with a tempo shift in “Light” that’s sickening in an extremely satisfying way. And the spirit of Sabbath, their lord and master, won’t ever be dispelled: “Pipe” is one step sideways from “Sweet Leaf,” with eerily Ozzy-ish vocals and a dinosaur-enraged riff. But then the clock hits 2:35 and in comes the synthesizer like a killer comet streaking across the night sky, and so Fuzz claws its way toward the unknown. What I’m saying is there are cracks in the monolith now: #1 was almost magically coherent, an alien statue cut from a single giant rock, but II is like a Stonehenge, built from different rocks (of various weights and sharpnesses) for mysterious primal purposes. “Red Flag” is fast punk with at least half the feel of ’82 Black Flag on shouted chorus and Greg Ginn-style guitar acrobatics. And “New Flesh” and “Let It Live” are unexpectedly … Ty Segall-ish: the Manipulator arises again for songs more like Sweet b-sides or heavy Status Quo than Pentagram or Bang. (“Say Hello” is also answering “Wave Goodbye” in a way, once it’s done with the Eastern-style psych prelude.) “Sleestak” is a percussive instrumental with sci-fi synthesizer and “Silent Sits The Dust Bowl” deposits Marc Bolan and his string section (courtesy Geronimo) on the Planet of the Funhouse Outtakes for half the song. (Don’t worry, Sabbath saves them … as it saves everyone.) This isn’t a lesser record just for having a different kind of geology; it’s just not the singular cosmic bolt from nowhere that was the first album, and if it was, I’m sure there would have been plenty complaints about Fuzz not trying new things. II is the document of those new things in the trying, left sizzling as they first hit the tape. Put it this way: the first Fuzz gave a lot and asked nothing in return. But this Fuzz … this Fuzz needs you to come with them.

—Chris Ziegler