Basement Dwelling: “Emotional Mugger” by Ty Segall

On the cover of Ty Segall’s 11th record, underneath the image of a grainy black-and-white photo of a disturbing looking doll, is a caption that says, “No man is good three times.” Maybe this is true, but in the case of Mr. Segall, with his new record Emotional Mugger, he proves that you can be great three times. As a matter of fact, he’s been amazing all eleven times that he’s put out a record.

Segall has been making waves in the garage rock/psychedelic scene for about eight years now. It all started with Lemons (2008) and the fantastic lo-fi 2009 masterpiece that put him on many musical maps, Melted. Through the course of these eight years and eleven LPs, Segall has managed to change up his style and yet consistently remain himself with each new addition to his catalog. From the fuzzy, acoustic-led ballads on the album Goodbye Bread, to the pure garage rock freak-out that is Slaughterhouse, no two records of his sound the same and that is certainly still the case for Emotional Mugger.

What is the sound of Emotional Mugger? Well, the only way I can describe it is this: psychedelic garage rock by way of funk, with a little bit of krautrock thrown in. Oh, and it’s loud — like really fucking loud. Sound intriguing? It certainly should.

Emotional Mugger is an acidic odyssey of a record, and really the most strung-out and warped Segall has ever sounded. It’s an effect that makes the experience of listening to this album even more of a treat. It’s Ty Segall playing to his strengths and trying on some new hats at the same time. From the woozy, reverb-soaked funk on opener “Squealer” (a type of song Jack White wishes he could write when shooting for this same style) and album highlight “Baby Big Man,” to the thunderous guitar stomp found on his cover of “Diversion” by Eddie Grant, there’s so much to love here on Emotional Mugger. The varied tracklisting here results in the album having a very high replay value, almost more so even than some of Ty Segall’s recent output, which is saying quite a lot.

Another factor that stands out very poignantly on Emotional Mugger is the lyrical content, which paints a disturbing and biting picture. Many of the lyrics have to do with being brought to your knees by lust and being confused by carnal feelings at the same time. In addition, the album’s lyrics contain the re-occurring theme of being a child as well as a fear of bearing children. All the while, the lyrics are presented in a man-child sort of whimsical way — especially on the track “Baby Big Man.” This is a really genius song that ties the album together with a pretty haunting theme and gives the LP’s artwork a deeper meaning.

Even with Ty Segall’s large, exceptional discography, Emotional Mugger stands out as a crown jewel. It’s not as bombastic and awesome as his last record, 2014’s Manipulator, nor as well written as 2009’s Melted, but I’ll be damned if Emotional Mugger doesn’t stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those records. Ty Segall has provided one of the year’s best rock albums only one month into 2016. I look forward to seeing if anyone can even come close to topping it. Okay, let’s be real: the closest thing we’ll get will probably just be Ty Segall releasing another record by the year’s end.


— Dan Fiorio, Music Blogger


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