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What the Fuzz?

Memphis music caught in Fuzz vs. Fuzz crossfire.



"We beat him to it," Hector Bobo shouted, when asked whether his band the Fuzz was named before frequent Goner artist Ty Segall's Fuzz. It's a small town, so it's important that this be set straight.

Hector is the belligerent alleged twin/alter ego of Harlan T. Bobo. Harlan is known for his albums Too Much Love, I'm Your Man, and Sucker, full of beautifully rendered, emotionally raw songs derived from personal crises.

"This album is nothing like that," Hector avers. And it isn't.

Recorded with the Fuzzjerk mobile unit at an undisclosed location, the Fuzz's eponymous debut is fast and dirty. Where Harlan records feature some of the city's most renowned session players, the Fuzz is made up of more unruly and obscure sorts. The band grew out of the Flamin' A's, a band formed by musicians who had been fired from Limes.

"I don't know what you'd have to do to get kicked out of the Flamin' A's. Nobody can get canned from the A's," Hector says.

Members of the Fuzz are Tom Jones and Jeff Bunny Dutton. The two last recorded as Action Family almost 20 years ago but play live and add fantastic energy to the record. Jones' drum sounds and performances add dimension that many garage/lo-fi records don't have. Dutton's guitar work is surly and insolent, but his parts are well placed and his tone has a great manic electricity.

Steve Selvidge plays bass and adds background vocals. His presence is heard in other ways: "We started out trying to cut to Pro Tools, but it really wasn't working. Then we fired up the TEAC, and it was just perfect," Selvidge says

"We are so happy to have him. He held this mess together," Hector adds.

"Actually, this band picks bass players based on hair," Dutton confirms.

It does sound good. Better than many records in the lo-fiosphere. But the performances are real. This isn't a cut-and-paste-sounding record. It's an unruly collection of songs that cover a lot of ground in an unpretentious way. There is definitely input from California punkers like the Vandals. But there are also hints of Magical Mystery Tour. There must be something in the Bobo blood that intuitively takes simple forms and tweaks them away from repetitiveness with great chord changes. It's still not an easy process.

"We were doing industrial stuff for a while," Bobo says. "The really drunk stuff we did at my house."

"We fell apart at his house," Jones says. "We were just writing and throwing things out."

Eventually, it worked out. With photography by the omnipresent Jamie Harmon and package design by the band, the CD is a fully rendered record that still feels like something dangerous. The cover instructs listeners to play it loud. They should.

Somewhere out there, Ty Segall is on his way to Memphis. His band Fuzz — minus the definite article — represents the latest in a protean march through the lo-fi landscape. Segall has recorded for Memphis' Goner Records on 2007's Caesar 7-inch and Ty Rex II in 2013. He also has records out on Drag City, and Fuzz comes from L.A.-based In the Red Records.

Fuzz's first album debuted on Monday. The self-titled release has similar energy to their nemeses in the Fuzz. But where Bobo's gang trades on the Californian anger of the 1980s, Segall harkens more toward the 1960s. Citing Blue Cheer as an influence, he certainly lives up to it. But where much of the crunchy psychedelia he channels failed due to long-windedness and hokeyness, Segall imports a Brit-punk sensibility that keeps things from getting to groovy. And it's not just John Lydon in his sound. There's more than a bit of Syd Barrett too.

"Loose Sutures" is a Sabbath-derived romp. Segall's tones have a Link Wray sort of sneer, but the determining factor here is fuzz, papery, static, and electric-sounding guitar. "Earthen Gate" is a Vol. 4-era arrangement with reverb-drenched vocals and guitar-forward heft.

Fuzz plays the Hi-Tone on Sunday, October 6th.

Some say Segall had a single out first. Others say you never mess with Hector Bobo. I'm staying out of it.

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