Featured Image via Drag City
Ty Segall is a strangely productive artist. Sitting on top of a mountain work from a variety of groups and side projects, Segall has proven that he’s adept at channeling his power towards tearing up guitar solos as acoustic singer/songwriter numbers. After teasing new music over the last few years, Emotional Mugger arrives to answer the question of where Ty Segall can take his West Coast fuzz to now. He responds with a roar of droning synths, spastic guitars and whacked out… well, everything.
It would be a reach to say that Emotional Mugger is something of a concept record as it seemingly refuses to pause on the same thought for very long. However, it certainly sticks to a theme that, even without digging beyond initial impressions of the music, is readily apparent. The specific choices Segall makes throughout the album make him seem like an eager kid chasing his every fancy, darting and swerving every which way flipping songs on their head as he goes. What keeps him from falling into complete chaos is the consistency of his inconsistencies, focusing less on hitting correct notes and more on channeling the same playful menace portrayed on the album’s (creepy) dead-eyed, smiling doll cover art.
Unlike the majestic opener on its predecessor, Manipulator, “Squealer” begins with a few moments of silence, footsteps, before Segall jolts you awake to swan dive into an ocean funky noise. From here, you can find Segall dipping up and down on his vocal range from his usual dreaminess to deep snarling growls with impunity. “California Hills” gets broken up regularly with fits of screaming guitars, settling back down, then finally giving into thumping drums and explosive noise. The nature of Segall’s lyrics and music on Emotional Mugger do present the issue of songs blending together, getting so caught up in fervor of his ambition that some elements or tend to reappear frequently. These lapses, however, are few and are mitigated by the LP’s overall brilliance like “Candy Sam’s” terrific guitar work and “Mandy Cream”, a song that manages to truly stick out from the rest of his music.
The recurrent theme of Emotional Mugger is instant gratification. During the initial roll out of the record, Ty Segall reportedly sent out the record to critics along with a clinical definition of “emotional mugging,” describing it as: “The over-communication relayed in cell based technology and content driven media further detaches passengers of our modern society from deep emotional understanding.” This cognitive dissonance lies at the heart of the album, Segall attempting to reveal how our over-stimulation from social media and the Internet is affecting the very way we communicate with each other. It’s a sentiment that hits home with mostly success, yet, despite Emotional Mugger’s exceptional moments it still feels like the middle act to Ty Segall’s career. Whether he decides to continue in this direction or go blank slate again is not clear. What is clear is that even when Segall finds himself searching, he can still deliver a meaningful and wildly entertaining piece of work.
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