Compact Review: Ty Segall’s Emotional Mugger

Ty Segall – Emotional Mugger
Released January 22, 2016
Rating: 81/100

With over five record releases including various side projects and collaborations over the past two years alone, Ty Segall has proven himself a prolific creative force. His brand of buzzing psychedelic garage rock is consistently innovative and at times masterful (see his 2014 album, Manipulator). His latest offering Emotional Mugger seems to fit nicely within his body of work, although the tracks definitely edge away from his more accessible material and recall more experimental projects.

To introduce the album to critics, Drag City records sent VHS tapes to writers explaining the concept of “emotional mugging.” The video, now watchable on YouTube, shows Ty himself explaining that “emotional mugging” is “the over-communication relayed in cell based technology and content driven media further detaches passengers of our modern society from deep emotional understanding”. A jargon-heavy way to explain that in this technological, highly connected age, humans are emotionally damaged to the point of a return to infancy, unable to meaningfully connect. The porcelain baby doll album artwork and numerous lyrical references to infants crying for candy are woven throughout. In “Candy Sam,” Ty alternates between high-pitched baby sounding wails and a low growl while he repeats the lines “little baby, big man” in hypnotic succession.

Overall, the album’s eleven tracks are aggressive and unrestricted, at times lacking discernible hooks. Shredding guitars coupled with erratic tempo changes are exemplified most obviously in the album’s second track, “California Hills.” Synthesizers and saxophone sounds add to existing layers of punk and grunge/fuzz while dirty guitars illicit an eager immediacy as the album progresses. The guitar solo on “Candy Sam” is big, gleaming and highly technical, but still manages to sound spontaneous and fun. The listener can’t help but imagine that Ty and crew had massive amounts of fun while creating this record—at times the tracks bleed into one another and sound more like friends jamming out together, which sometimes works well and sometimes falls flat, as on “Diversion” (originally by The Equals) which doesn’t seem to reach full potential.

It’s worth mentioning that Ty recruited some killer musicians for this record. His backing band “The Muggers” include Melvins drum man Dale Crover, Emmett Kelly of The Cairo Gang, Kyle “King Tuff” Thomas, Charles Moothart, Cory Hanson and Evan Burrows of Wand, and the great Mikal Cronin. The Muggers are a psych-grunge super group of sorts. The collective skill of these musicians is exactly how the album manages to be both motley and adept.

Full disclosure, I was fortunate enough to see Ty Segall and the Muggers live and, damn, can this crew brings it on stage. The crowd fully bought into Ty’s erratic front man shtick that included wearing a baby mask, frequent stage dives and a lot of spit and licking things, yet another ode to infancy imagery. (For example: Ty grabbed a girl’s iPhone while she was took Snapchats of him; he licked the screen and handed it back). This is an album made for a crowd and a stage.

Overall, Emotional Mugger feels disorienting and at times tracks inch towards unpleasant, even. Newer fans of Ty Segall may find Emotional Mugger difficult. Listeners more familiar with his sound will immediately recognize the rebellious, manic energy of the album as another example of Ty’s ability to shred hard and shred skillfully. Undeniably, Ty Segall knows what he’s doing.

Top tracks: “Candy Sam”, “Mandy Cream”, “Big Baby Man (I Want a Mommy)”

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