Ty Segall arguably injected gritty rock 'n' roll back into the American consciousness this year with a trio of distorted albums and appearances on late night television. Yet, there are droves of groups with similar influences whose scuzzy screeds are too mangled, debauched, and nasty to achieve the national profile of Segall. Here, we collect 10 records that channel the primal spirit of rock 'n roll and compel listeners to roll around in the scuzz.
Raw Sewage Roq
[In the Red]
Whether with Clone Defects, Human Eye, or Timmy's Organism, Detroit's notorious enfant terrible Timmy Vulgar consistently dishes out some of the vilest dirges to grace the post-millennial rock 'n' roll landscape. His 2012 full length is no exception. Fetid and nasty guitar tones abound, percussion plods along with unpretentious oafishness, and Vulgar employs a subhuman, deranged bark throughout. The title alone conjures images of the man crawling out of a steaming Detroit manhole with guitar in tow. Thematically, Raw Sewage Roq is focused on America. If the songs' specific subject matter isn't inherently base and tasteless, then it becomes so simply by its association with Vulgar and company.
On Triple Beams
[In the Red]
Another group of Detroit deviants, Tyvek flirts with straight-ahead punk and hardcore on its earlier albums, but this year's offering finds the group taking the most oblique approach to rock yet. The opening track's percussion is practically beat-less. Crash cymbals are struck relentlessly, percussive guitar riffs create a circular groove, and vocals rave about a number of esoteric topics. On Triple Beams is similarly idiosyncratic throughout. The record evades most rock 'n' roll conventions, except the sneer that qualifies it as rock to begin with. But Tyvek amplifies the sneer considerably: Between the lines of the dense lyrics is a smart critique of Detroit's changing landscape, which has been torn down and built up in a way that Tyvek doesn't seem to approve of.
[In the Red]
Total Control's austere post-punk certainly captivated us this year, but Daniel Stewart's other band UV Race qualifies better for our tendency towards scuzz. UV Race is the only group to evoke Cleveland proto-punk at the same time as it prominently features handclaps that could have been lifted from a Euro glam-rock single. Whether it's the 90-second romp "I'm a Pig" (complete with an "Oink oink oink" chorus), staccato single-note keyboard lines, or "Raw Balls" (yes, it goes "I've got raw balls), it's evident here that UV Race set out to be cheeky. There are hooks among the absurdist lyrics and deliberately simple song structures, but the pop elements get dragged through the group's primitive delivery and evidently deranged psyches in an endearing way.
Bits of Shit
The debut album from these Australian deviants is a positively unhinged collection of agitated screeds. Considering the thick riffs, frenzied feedback, and unwieldy leads, Cut Sleeves could qualify for this list based on the guitar alone. (The group must be aware of this asset, since it includes an instrumental track in the very beginning.) But the vocals push Bits of Shit's capacity for scuzz beyond an album's conceivable threshold. Each line is delivered like the motor-mouthed ramblings of an anguished speed freak who's been duped into an in-patient rehabilitation facility by his junkie friends.
Under the Water, Under the Ground
[In the Red]
The dense guitar saturation on any given Lamps song is worked into a most potent frenzy by the production here on their second full-length. Lamps doesn't strive for the "tasteful" overdrive or distortion of more precious guitar players and their expensive vintage gear -- the mire whipped up by Lamps instrumentation is mean-spirited, overblown, and raucous. They've created a record nearly devoid of subtleties in a time when sonic minutiae are endlessly fretted over. Lamps' straight-forward nastiness is antithetical to the preciousness we find elsewhere in rock 'n' roll, and all the more effective for it.