It should be more exhausting to keep up with Ty Segall. The clip at which the garage-glam savant releases records is on par with the ’70s supernatural output of our dear departed friend David Bowie. Like Bowie, Segall is so self-aware, so in touch with his own levitating aura, that he’s able to casually hitch genres and styles to one another without ever threatening to not sound like himself. Which makes Emotional Mugger, Segall’s eighth solo effort, all the more impressive.
A 5,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of tinny and scorched guitar licks, jagged and fitful rhythms, and snotty drugged-out vocals (irksome croaking and all), the album celebrates its elaborate peculiarity in a way that makes it feel more like part of an era, rather than just “another Ty Segall record.” Nuggets of Parliament-style, space-party funk (“Squealer Two”) and hyper-proggy asides reminiscent of Robert Fripp’s collaborative work in the ’80s (“California Hills”) are welded together to bear a beast that’s ultimately greater than the sum of its parts. Though tracks move in a kind of stop-motion technique and psych-hammered synth warbles seem especially heavy-handed—sometimes leeching onto a groove and assisting in its devolvement into a hole in the ground—Segall proudly high-steps in front of all the clatter, with his baton and drum-major headwear, leading the traveling carnival right off the edge of a cliff. It’s too fun.
Emotional Mugger was initially sent out to media outlets in November on VHS. It was accompanied by a convoluted, faux-scientific definition of what “emotional mugging” means in today’s digital age, as well as a press release one-sheet that reads like a disjointed poem and at least somewhat details the album’s oddities (you can find more nonsensical elaboration as well as the record’s cast of characters at the album’s website). In short, this was being foretold as one of Segall’s more eccentric solo efforts—never mind his payload of collaborative and ensemble records (and T. Rex cover albums)—and he delivers with a bravado that’s so self-assured you can almost hear him thinking “Fuck, let’s try it.”
The melody on “Mandy Cream” is drowned in so much gashing guitar sludge and zapping noise it’s a wonder how it stays so hypnotic and catchy, while “Emotional Mugger/Leopard Priestess” splits into two distinct parts. It begins with a dragging but stylish strut before bursting forward like a firing squad armed with Roman candles. You’ll actually miss the track morph if you’re not paying attention. Segall has such control of the chaos on Emotional Mugger that once you’ve reached the halfway point you’ll realize that you were never doubting him—because as he’s developed as a songwriter, he’s grown more adventurous and even more dependable. The bigger the catalog, the better.