In the January issue of Rolling Stone this year, Patrick Carney of the Black Keys declared that “Rock & roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world.” That wouldn’t seem to be the case now. The Black Keys had two of the top-selling albums of the last two years with their bluesy, raw rock styles on Brothers and El Camino. With Carney and his band at the forefront, there definitely seems to a hankering for old school rock as of late and with Hair — the first album from the pairing of Ty Segall and Tim Presley (aka White Fence) — that nostalgia-steeped sound arrives in full force.
Though the two men behind the album never experienced the heights of ’60s rock ‘n’ roll in their heyday, they sound like a virtual tour of that psychedelic soundscape. The keyboard intro on “I Am Not A Game” is a deadringer for The Doors. The simple melodies and beats of “Easy Ryder” could be set side by side with Pink Floyd in the Syd Barrett days. Even the album art, sepia-toned and faded, recalls flower power. It’s a pleasant trip down the sonic memory lane, but is it derivative? Should that matter if the album is good?
Hair plagues listeners with this quandary. The effect of the duo’s immaculately-crafted rock is pleasant and successful by all means. But that’s it. The problem lies in its own achievement. The lasting power of those ’60s rock gods — The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Led Zeppelin — was their ability to change and transform their style along with the technological and cultural shifts of the time. They were never stuck. This album is. And, while the nostalgia is nice, it’s a feeling that is almost always brief and insubstantial. Similarly, Hair winds up mired in stale sounds and remains tangled in the past.