In the interest of foregoing the usual chronicling of Ty Segall’s chameleonic artistic turnarounds, suffice it to say that here is another Ty Segall album. It’s his first release of 2016, but probably will not be his last (in one project or another), and it’s a mindfuck of an about-face from the psych-garage brilliance of 2014’s Manipulator, his most recent release under the project that boasts only his whole name.
Emotional Mugger takes all of Segall’s far-flung cosmic muses, slathers them in interstellar glam-rock goo and a lot of phaser effects, guitar leads and solos and gets down to business right off the bat with the dirty, groovy rock riot of “Squealer.” Immediately notable is the much more live-sounding ambiance of this collection of tunes. Whether or not that had anything to do with the turnstile of guest appearances or lack of time due to other projects is not known. What is known is that Segall’s very loud, very energized, very alive air is transferred excellently here.
There’s a disjointedness to the record, too, that makes it unlike a lot of the somewhat even vibes found on touchstones like Twins or Sleeper. “California Hills” features twisted shifts in tempo, ear-piercingly fuzzy guitar counter-melodies and a recklessness you might find more with The Traditional Fools or Fuzz, two of Segall’s other projects. That track is accentuated by one of the album’s more surprising guests in The Cairo Gang’s Emmett Kelly, who also appears on “Squealer” and the vaguely Sabbath-y “Breakfast Eggs.”
“Emotional Mugger/ Leopard Priestess” fusses in the same strange psychotropic headspace, Segall singing in a sinister half-man/half-robot, “I am an emotional mugger/like a bag of candy I’ll give you pleasure.” Bereft of any simple conceptual thread, there is at least the candy metaphor bandied on in other tunes like “Breakfast Eggs” and more directly in “Candy Sam.”
“Diversion” is probably the best example of Segall’s willingness to get as far away from his most recently released output as possible. Anchored by the titanic drumming of Dale Crover (Melvins) and the cacophonous low-end of Mikal Cronin, “Diversion” is a perfect convergence of the sometimes meat-headed schlock of grunge and Segall’s ability to somehow coax a sneaky ‘60s “na na na” melody out of it. This song, too, is bedecked in longwinded guitar solos that you won’t want to end.
Elsewhere, the spastic “Mandy Cream” features King Tuff adding vocals over busy riffs and a solid drum beat held down by Segall’s Fuzz bandmate Chris Moothart.
In all, Emotional Mugger, for all its elegant distortions, abrasive melodies and overdriven guitar-porn spasms, somehow makes absolute perfect sense as a follow-up to such a universally acclaimed LP like Manipulator. Segall’s allegiances are steeped in punk, in being loud and never settling. This album is yet another testament to that seemingly insatiable desire for provoking, for poking and for pulling the wool over the eyes of his audience.