The varied musical endeavours and experiments of Ty Segall have made him a seminal figure in the modern garage punk and lo-fi rock arena. His prolific output as both a solo musician and as a member of numerous bands has covered a significant amount of musical ground, whilst still being rooted in a pub-playing punk aesthetic. Even some of his more mellow outputs, such as 2011’s Goodbye Bread, feature some of the fuzzy lo-fi riffs with which Segall has come to be closely associated, notably on the tracks My Head Explodes and Where Your Head Goes. His 2013 album Sleeper stands out as the only album in his discography to feature little to none of the underlying garage punk approach that has been flaunted on all of his other releases. Instead, the album takes influence from folk music, particularly the more psychedelic side of the genre, and seems to be more of a personal album following an unfortunate number of personal issues that were affecting Segall at the time, such as the death of his father, his estrangement from his mother and relationship problems. Nonetheless, one year and one day later, the songwriter came back with arguably his most ambitious project to date, Manipulator. True to this punk aesthetic, much of Segall’s music is short and sweet, so for him to release a 17-track album clocking in at just over 56 minutes was quite the risk. Even so, the album came through with some great psych rock tunes, many of which displayed a slight glam rock hue to them, which is apt given the great respect Segall has for classic glam rock acts, most notably David Bowie and Marc Bolan. Emotional Mugger, the songwriter’s last album released early in 2016, proved to me to be a highlight in his discography, bringing many a twisted garage rock tune to the table, with a notable noise rock tinge that has showed up many of my favourite projects of his, such as his Mikal Cronin collaborative project, Reverse Shark Attack. I can always expect a good release from Segall, although that’s not to say every record he puts out excites me as much as his strongest releases. Nevertheless, given the songwriting high he seems to have been on for his last few solo records now, this new self-titled record of his (the second to be named Ty Segall, after his debut 2008 release of the same name) looked to be a promising project for the artist.
The album opens up with the teaser track Break a Guitar. Whilst this track is well-assembled, featuring a punchy performance from Ty Segall and his returning collaborators Mikal Cronin on bass, Emmett Kelly on guitar and Charles Moothart on drums, it feels less daring than much of his last album, and it’s Segall’s adventurous attitude that makes him stand out as an artist to me. It’s a perfectly good track that fans of psychedelic, garage and glam rock can appreciate, but I personally look for something a bit more from a Ty Segall record. Freedom is a track more in the vain of what I wanted from this album. The lively but technical drumming that opens this track sounds great, and Segall’s chanting over the light acoustic guitar chord stabs has a nice bite to it. The minimal instrumentation throughout the verses makes the chorus all the more satisfying when it kicks in, and it features one of the catchiest vocal lines on the record, accompanied with another great garage rock chord progression that one can expect from Segall, and some wailing guitars that bring the chorus back into the verse.
The Only One starts off as a bluesy jam in 6/8 time that sounds like it could have appeared on The Beatles’ White Album alongside tracks like Birthday and Yer Blues, particularly as a result of Segall’s singing, which is similar in style to the approach used by John Lennon on The Beatles’ blues-inspired tracks. The verse seamlessly moves into a more typical psychedelic rock chorus, but this track stands out as a result of the instrumental chemistry between Segall and Kelly in the guitar department. The whacked-out, weaving guitar solos from the pair that intertwine in the last section of this song sound lovely and harmonious at times, but also descend into organised chaos at others, providing a varied performance that works well as the cut’s climax.
Take Care (To Comb Your Hair) is prominent in the tracklisting as a result of the meeting of Segall’s normal fuzzy garage rock vibe with the folk sensibilities towards which he has shown an interest in the past, as mentioned earlier on in my review. The simple acoustic melody at the beginning of the track, paired with Segall’s vocal line, sounds very much like a run-of-the-mill soft folk track, but as the track progresses and more instrumentation is added, it gradually morphs into a garage rock standard with some nice riffage appearing between the vocal sections, feeling like a relatively satisfying composition overall.
As the longest track on the record, and one of Segall’s longest compositions period, clocking in at just over 10 minutes and thus taking up nearly a third of the record, I feel that Warm Hands (Freedom Returned) should be touched on due to the clear ambition of the track. As is the case with previous songs in Segall’s discography to feature runtimes of similar length (see the title track from 2008’s album with Mikal Cronin Reverse Shark Attack), this song feels more like a conglomerate of different songs taped on to one another, although this does tend to work well with Segall’s approach to songwriting. After all, his songs are typically of short length for a reason, that reason being that they are based on simple but bold ideas that are well-performed with a punk attitude and need not overstay their welcome. Therefore, as I expected, Warm Hands (Freedom Returned) features some great psych rock passages with catchy yet angry and punchy chord progressions, with Segall’s usual, slightly-distorted vocal delivery. This track, however, is partially made so long but a middle section that spans for about three minutes, featuring some loose guitar licks and soft drumming, both of which sound largely improvised. Whilst there is a slight pay-off to this lukewarm section, in that when the drums abruptly bring the full band punk sound back in it feels slightly rewarding, but this section nonetheless feels unnecessarily long and gives the listener little to grasp on to in the time that it is running.
As I somewhat expected from this album, as I do all Ty Segall albums, it features a collection of garage and psychedelic rock tunes packaged in the musician’s typical aesthetic of fuzzed-out guitars, slightly whacky vocals and energetic performances. Whilst there are some definite highlights in the tracklisting, I nonetheless hoped for a bit more experimentation on this record that lived up to the audacity of Segall’s last record, Emotional Mugger. Even still, fans of Segall’s music will likely enjoy this album a lot and it certainly isn’t a wasted addition to his discography, living up to the standard that the artist has set on his previous material and that has made him such a loud voice in the current garage rock scene.
The Vinyl Verdict: 7/10