Ty Segall mugs emotions

The garage rock revivalist reminds listeners of what his artistic capabilities with “Emotional Mugger.”



Maxwell Heilman , Writer

As if having seven professionally released albums under one’s belt is not enough, over 30 independently released singles, EPs and LPs have earned Ty Segall notoriety as one of the most industrious people in Southern California garage rock. Unfortunately, this has also given him a reputation for favoring quantity over quality.


Other than exceptions like 2012’s “Slaughterhouse,” I could not for the life of me understand Segall’s insistence on putting out such a massive volume of music without providing a qualitative filter. If not for the artwork of his 2016 release reminding me of “Von” by Sigur Rós, I doubt I would have given it a listen. What I was greeted with when I first gave “Emotional Mugger” a spin reminded me of what Ty Segall is capable of.

With his uncanny way of deforming the traditions of lo-fi garage rock still very much present, Segall continues to push the envelope of acidic, molasses-laden heaviness within an otherwise accessible genre. Album opener “Squealer” unabashedly introduces this mentality. Starting with the sound of footsteps, jangling keys and a door slamming shut, listeners are greeted by what could be seen as straightforward rock-n-roll — if not for a healthy dose of thick distortion and Black Sabbath-esque spookiness. That is the beauty of “Emotional Mugger:” it maintains a backbone of songwriting chops while still scaring you to death. Whether it be the grimy guitar tone, the precisely executed energy in the drums or the lackadaisical venom in Segall’s voice, listeners could be just as likely to dance to this music as they would be to head for the hills. This dichotomy is found in the production as well.


“Emotional Mugger” carries on the tradition of raw production that defines Ty Segall’s back catalogue without losing his powerful delivery. This allows the DIY aesthetic he is known for to accentuate the emotional weight of his music rather than take away from his musicality. Guitars, synths, drums and vocals are consistently audible in the mix while sounding like the musicians are playing the songs right next to you. “Emotional Mugger” sounds raw without forsaking quality, something essential to executing this style. The production value also adds to the continuity of the record, with the transitions between tracks being much smoother than what might be expected from the brazen energy found in the music.


“Squeal” is only the beginning of the variety of emotional vibes “Emotional Mugger” provides over its 38-minute run time. The fan-favorite “Californian Hills” sports bombastic tempo changes, while the face-breaking groove and riffage of “Diversion” will leave listeners in the best kind of daze. The psychedelic weirdness and disquieting malice seething below the surface of feel-good rock-n-roll is what unifies this record in spite of its unabashed eccentricity. The quirky guitar solo of “Mandy Cream” is an example of how Segall is able to elevate horrific textures by balancing feedback-laden noise with melody. “Emotional Mugger” is a prime example of how Ty Segall can abhore and adore the senses of his listeners, and validates his status within the OC underground rock scene.

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