Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger

Ty Segall is one of those sonic mad scientists, a Robert Pollard-meets-Jay Reatard type who releases at least one album per season – plus a deluge of side projects. This guy either loves music or is so tormented by his muse that he just can’t stop. Or maybe a little of both.

Whatever the case, Segall’s inspiration/torment is serving him (and us) well these days. Over the span of his career, Segall has evolved from a spunky-but-crude rocker to a renaissance man, a gifted songwriter and an amazing guitarist. (Segall is no slouch on the drums, either.)

Segall has an amazing work ethic, but he’s not quite so gifted when it comes to self-editing. His last solo album, Manipulator, and recent side project release, Fuzz II (especially) were both excellent albums that ran a little long – well, way long.

But for some reason, the planets seem to have aligned just so with Segall’s latest opus, Emotional Mugger. Sure, the album is the layered and complex work of a mature artist – but it’s neither too layered nor too complex. And the running time of around 40 minutes, well, that’s just about the perfect duration for the hard rocking, catchy pop that has always been Segall’s stock in trade.

So, Segall has been (mis)classified as a garage rocker – like forever. Sure, his songs are somewhat simple. And yeah, they have a roughshod, punkish quality to them. And yeah, the songs rock. And yeah, yeah, yeah, any gang of teenagers who have played their instruments for like six months could probably crank out a few of Segall’s tunes halfway competently with a little practice. But so what? I think the problem with the “garage rock” niche is that the focus of the generic designation is adjectival description. “Garage” equals “rough” – or something, right? What about the rock? And, even more importantly, what about the songs?

Segall is all about the songs. Segall’s oeuvre is really classic rock. The guy’s music has a lot more in common with T-Rex, The Beach Boys and (especially) The Beatles than it does with The Mummies or (ugh) The White Stripes, even. Segall’s music only seems simple. Melodically, there’s really a lot going on.

By no means a departure from his recent work, the album finds Segall getting even better at his craft. He seems to have hit that sweet spot between purposeful minimalism and grandiosity. Each part of each song serves the song without distracting from the song.

At its core, Emotional Mugger is a psychedelic album. The lyrics are quirky, funny, and about, well, nothing really. Segal has delivered a brightly colored collection of goggle-eyed, musical wind-up toys that never wind down – performing skewed, spazzy motions that convey hidden meanings, or not. The music is pop, so it’s catchy. But occasionally it’s grating and scary too. Repeated listening will produce lysergic paroxysms in the pleasure centers of the brain. They call it a perversion but I think it’s kinda groovy.

Ty Segall
Emotional Mugger
[Drag City]