In the Red
Three is a magic number. At least, that’s what Schoolhouse Rock tried to drill into impressionable minds some 47 years ago with a highly-hummable, mathematically-informed anthem conveniently named after said idiom. De La Soul concurred on their landmark 3 Feet High and Rising album, but Fuzz challenge the notion on “Returning”. “There is no sum greater than one,” they sing fervently on the track, though the harmony may only be doubled. It’s also worth noting that Fuzz are a trio—drummer Ty Segall, guitarist Charles Moothart and bassist Chad Ubovich— and this is a song off of III, their aptly-titled third full-length release. Without getting lost in the semantics, “Returning” is a direct and positive mission statement—united as one, the members of Fuzz are a hell of a force.
“Returning” truly delivers on the promise of Fuzz, barrelling out the gates in a blur distorted psych-blues sounds. The destructive swagger of its key riff is monolithic, drummer/vocalist Ty Segall practically punching through his toms to further prove the group’s point. It’s probably the most perfect part of the record, their first in five years, but there are still several choice cuts across III. “Spit,” for instance, is a fantastically wobbly 7/4 crunge, with Moothart bringing some especially achy-breaky bends to the forefront of the perception-bending piece. The furious and fiery “Mirror,” meanwhile, finds rolling thunder drum work, stompbox-corroded bass slinging, and death rattle backup vocals supporting a story centred on some “sketchy freaks”.
III is not lacking in overdubbed licks and assorted accentuations, but there’s something special about the moments where you truly hear Fuzz working as a power trio. Take “Nothing People,” another mammoth-sized riff-rocker, where rhythm guitars drop out entirely during Moothart’s fretboard-quaking solo, his flash balanced by Ubovich and Segall’s pop-and-lock-groove.
Fuzz are often at their best in compact bursts. The doomy introductory crush of “Time Collapse” is certifiably killer, but an overlong back-section has Moothart diving into a drawn-out guitar solo that lets the slapback of a digital delay pedal do the heavy lifting. “End Returning,” the nearly eight-minute finale, never quite gels, abruptly pivoting in tempo several times before swerving into a somewhat laboured return to the album’s opening riff. On the flipside, the preceding “Blind to Vines” is Moothart at his most electric, peppering his lengthy lead with fiery trills and tasty runs. A fade-out finds the band going accelerando into oblivion. It’s a hell of an ending.
III isn’t a groundbreaking rock record, but it doesn’t have to be. The band admits as much in their bio, noting that “The goal was never to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes it’s just about seeing how long you can hold on before you’re thrown off.” With that in mind, III is a mostly smoking collection that will thrill psych devotees, a hard and gnarly neon trip to binge on between Blue Cheer and the Brown Acid series.