Ty Segall: Emotional Mugger


Videos by American Songwriter

Ty Segall
Emotional Mugger
(Drag City)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The music that Ty Segall plays is, at least on the surface, not all that complicated. He plays rock and roll. That might be oversimplifying it a bit, but not by much. The San Francisco singer-songwriter is at his best when his songs are slathered in obscene gobs of dirty, druggy fuzz. Within that range he’s remarkably versatile, but the end result is almost always a variation on the same result.

So it goes with Emotional Mugger. It’s a noisier, messier album than the like that Segall had been turning out of late, its thick, vintage-sounding Big-Muff fuzz a heavy presence throughout the album’s 11 tracks. When held against its predecessor, 2015’s Manipulator, this album feels more raw, more visceral and ready to come off the rails at any moment.

That’s just an illusion, though. You don’t very well release a dozen full-length records in less than 10 years without getting the songwriting part airtight, and while Segall’s sound has retreated from polish and sheen, beneath all the guitar screech and heavy psychedelic bombast are some fantastic little rock numbers. From the very first track, “Squealer,” the album lifts off with an infectiously off-kilter guitar riff and a call-and-response vocal tag-team between Segall and himself. It’s just one flavor of badassery that Emotional Mugger comes in, and Segall offers a diverse spread of cathartic cacophony in the form of two-chord fuzz thunder (“Diversion”), disorienting psych-rock stereo mixes (“Candy Sam”), knob-twiddling noise chaos (“W.U.O.T.W.S.”) and pulsing krautrock dirge (“Magazine”).

What’s remarkable about Emotional Mugger is how fresh, even interesting it all sounds coming from a performer with an already weighty catalog, in a genre where loud guitars is nothing terribly new. Indeed, Segall has grown into his role as one of rock’s best contemporary songwriters. But it’s the way that Segall plays these songs that turns them from good to great.

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