This Ty Segall article was written by Sam Holmes, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Adam Skirving.
The ever prolific garage rock star Ty Segall keeps true to his tag with ‘Emotional Mugger’; his 8th studio album in nine years. Despite being primarily known for using fuzz – and lots of it – it is important to remember that with each new release Segall has experimented with both sound and genre; altogether showing maturity and progression. ‘Emotional Mugger’ provides further strives in said progression, dropping the catchy hooks for a more uncomfortable and abrasive approach.
The album begins with the aptly named ‘Squealer’, providing some sense as to what to expect from the rest of the LP. The overriding feeling when listening to the song is just how chaotic a route Segall has chosen to take. There are several guitars playing at any one time, each with its own unique quality in terms of both sound and the way it is played. The entire album deploys this tactic; ‘California Hills’ in particular juxtaposes some heavy, face melting fuzz with a much cleaner, fast tempo indie sounding riff in the very same verse. It should sound disjointed, but it doesn’t, at the very least creating an interesting and diverse listen.
This chaotic nature of the album, along with other aspects, validate this as some of the darkest and even creepiest sounding work of Segall’s career. Vocals used in ‘Squealer,’ as well as songs such as ‘Emotional Mugger’ and ‘Candy Sam’ are reminiscent of a fantasy epic’s on-screen villain. The fact that the lyrics consistently reference ‘Candy’ and feature some rather disturbing lines such as “looking and touching your little legs” only heightens this feeling. Furthermore, the guitar and bass work on ‘Squealer Two’ and ‘Baby Big Man (I Want a Mommy)’ wouldn’t feel out of place at a carnival. It is clear Segall intended to create something dark from of the offset, and he’s certainly achieved it.
This isn’t a complete departure from his previous work, meaning fans of the catchier and more accessible back catalogue won’t feel completely alienated by its darker tones. ‘Candy Sam’ in particular is the most familiar sounding track of the album; a simple but powerful chorus, none of the keys, synthesizer or other electronic effects found elsewhere on the LP, and definitely the song one will most likely find themselves whistling or singing along to. ‘Californian Hills’ and ‘Mandy Cream’ feel like the Segall of the ‘Goodbye Bread’ era, but still incorporate the messiness and effects discussed earlier. So despite some familiar moments, this is indisputably the biggest change in style Segall has ever undertaken.
Upon first listen fans and newcomers alike may struggle with what can sometimes be an incoherent mess. But the chaos that ensues is what makes the album so special. Segall has more than proven he can write the fun and easy to dance to garage rock of ‘Melted’, ‘Twins’ and ‘Manipulator.’ ‘Emotional Mugger’ shows his twisted side; proof that he can try something different and do so with ease, producing some truly great moments. It’s hard to say what Segall’s next project will entail but there are three things to be expected; it’ll be out soon, it won’t sound anything like this LP, and music fans should be excited.
‘Emotional Mugger’ is out now via Drag City Records.