Note to self: Things to remember when reviewing a new album by Ty Segall:
1) Never ever EVER try to second guess what he’s going to do next.
2) Give it time.
3) Play it LOUD.
Is it actually possible to make an album full of prog rock songs that only last about three minutes each? Ty Segall seems to think so. Certainly, he has steadfastly impaled his own head on a spike labelled “sixties psychedelia” at the very least. I’m glad I followed rule two above here, though, for on first listen, a Basil Fawlty-like voice was whispering “What a bloody racket” into my mind’s ear. Perseverance is key, though, as each composition starts by playing hard to get but reveals more and more of itself, with a knowing wink, at each and every listen.
I once had a cat that was utterly terrified of Edgar Broughton. He would sleep through practically anything, but the opening chimes of ‘Out Demons Out’ would spook slumbermog so drastically that he would go charging upstairs and yelp uncontrollably. There are shades of Broughton here, in Segall’s eighth officially released long player in as many years (not to mention the unofficial ones!) as Emotional Mugger veers between Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, cover versions fuzzed up to the nth degree (The Equals‘ ‘Diversion‘ gets a terrifically noisy uber-makeover here) and brain frazzling ‘Wild Honey Pie‘ type curiosities.’
‘W.U.O.T.W.S‘ fits the latter category, a rather eerie soundbite – whether intentional or not – that conjures up images of a stupefied reveller, trudging wearily between tents at a music festival, oblivious to peripheral frivolities. Or maybe it’s something altogether more sinister than that – a serial killer, perhaps, stalking the corridors of a rehearsal studio, peering unnoticed at the varying degrees of raw talent and delusional no-marks as they crow and preen, selecting their would-be prey before the fatal final pounce.
There are more commercial moments within Emotional Mugger, like the explosively catchy ‘Candy Sam‘, which sounds bizarrely like the Real People with a rocket up their backsides, or opening gambit ‘Squealer‘ and its companion piece ‘Squealer Two‘, both exquisitely embracing the quirkier experimentalism of 50 years before, but, for the most part, this is unquestionably a challenging record.
Segall has clearly been studying rhythm as melody for the album’s blueprint, brilliantly showcased by the album’s title track (listed as ‘Emotional Mugger/Leopard Priestess‘), which doesn’t make much sense – if any at all – upon first listen, but becomes pleasingly hypnotic with each subsequent play; or the impressive ‘California Hills‘, a number that marries a 6/8 beat with insurgent, enigmatic lyrics.
I mean all this in a good way – we have, after all, got to a point where, musically, almost everything you hear will appeal to all ages. Emotional Mugger, on the other hand, brings a return to the heady old days where parents would burst into their offspring’s bedrooms demanding that they “Turn this shit down”. Don’t listen, though. The only way to listen to Ty Segall is at an ear-splitting capacity, brazenly, defiantly, middle finger firmly raised and poked in the eye of anyone who stands in your way.