Album Review: Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger (Drag City)

Continuing down his seemingly never ending spiral of quality releases delivered through a slew of different projects, resident workhorse Ty Segall’s latest solo outing Emotional Mugger came to us wrapped in a stranger hype cycle than anything he had done in the past. Having been first introduced to the idea of the record through a bizarre hotline posted on the album’s website, Segall followed up his initial promotion strategy by releasing the first single via a lo-fi video recording of his band in rehearsal. Judging from the sombre aesthetics of these features, a shift in Segall’s sound seemed imminent – a shift away from the glimmer of his previous LP Manipulator into a darker, noisier abyss. And this is exactly what we got.

This shift away from the style of Manipulator is evident from the very first seconds of the album’s opener. “Squealer” features a dizzying, fragmented guitar riff drenched in a fuzz tone reminiscent of early-70s metal, superposed with an overdriven bass and a drumset bearing Ty’s classic snap. Much like the organ sound which kicks off Manipulator or the melancholic acoustic guitar riff which introduces Sleeper, these opening sounds prove to be emblematic of the remainder of the album – an album which bears few pop sensibilities and which is less interested in its individual songs than in its general sound pallette.

The lack of distinguishable singles on this record – barring “Candy Sam” – demonstrates this emphasis on . All tracks feature a similar distinguishable sonic palette consisting of thick, layered, and distorted guitars and bass, a wailing lead guitar and a sombre keyboard sound reminiscent of Segall’s work in the Epsilons. All this is held together by Segall’s voice which takes two main forms: his usual crazed Lennon-esque squeal and a bizarre throaty croak. Despite these similarities, Segall does a stellar job at giving every song on this record its own identity and charm, rendering these pieces equally enjoyable on their own as well as in the context of the album.

Segall’s experimentation is ultimately what takes centre stage in this release. Throughout this record we see him experimenting with genres and styles – as made apparent in his Funkadelic-esque funk freakout “Squealer Two” – as well as overall musicality and instrumentation – demonstrated in his dark-toned synth-led closer “The Magazine” which features a strange handclap chorus.

Sound collage “W.U.O.T.W.S” proves to be the only casualty of experimentation taken too far. While this piece would have functioned brilliantly as an intermission of sorts earlier in the record, placing it at the end, ahead of a downtempo closer, kills the raucous tone of the album, ending it on a sour, anticlimactic note. But this should not take away from the brilliance of this record; it simply serves as an unavoidable bump in the road for any artist stepping out of his comfort zone and experimenting in this way.

Despite this record being in no way Segall’s best – 2012’s Twins would take the cake for me – it ultimately stands as a crucial one in his expansive discography. While the off-kilter aesthetic and overall experimentation are the prime focal points in this release, Segall manages to not let them overshadow the music itself. Instead, he plays around with them in order to create eleven tracks that are distinctively his. And these eleven tracks prove to be some of his most diverse – and his best to date.

Find Ty Segall on his Emotional Mugger Tour:
Wed. Feb. 17 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Ballroom
Fri. Feb. 19 – Austin, TX @ Mohawk Outside
Sat. Feb. 20 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
Sun. Feb. 21 – Memphis, TN @ The Hi Tone Cafe
Mon. Feb. 22 – Nashville, TN @ Mercy Lounge
Tue. Feb. 23 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
Wed. Feb. 24 – Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
Thu. Feb. 25 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club *
Fri. Feb. 26 – Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero Theatre *
Sat. Feb. 27 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall *
Sun. Feb. 28 – New York, NY @ Webster Hall
Tue. March 1 – Boston, MA @ Royale *
Wed. March 2 – Montreal, QC @ Theatre Rialto *
Thu. March 3 – Montreal, QC @ Theatre Rialto *
Fri. March 4 – Toronto, ON @ Danforth Music Hall *
Sat. March 5 – Detroit, MI @ Majestic Theatre *
Mon. March 7 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Tue. March 8 Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall *
Wed. March 9 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue and 7th Street Entry
Thu. March 10 – Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room
Fri. March 11 0 Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
Sat. March 12 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Fri. April 29 – Sun. May 1 – Austin, TX @ Levitation at Carson Creek Ranch
Fri. May 27 – Mon. May 30 – George, WA @ Sasquatch Festival

* with CFM

Visit his website and make sure to call the hotline – 1-800-281-2968.

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