With Emotional Mugger, Ty Segall’s latest studio album, the point is no longer about pushing musical boundaries, but rather taking on the hefty role of taking something well-known and making it unrecognizable, almost a way of pushing the boundaries in itself. It is perhaps Segall’s most polarizing album as a solo artist yet. Never one to conform to musical genre or taste, surprising fans and critics alike, Emotional Mugger leaves the listener in a pit filled with grit and glitter, bile and sugar.
The whole album is riddled with abrasive synthesizers and disjointed guitar riffs infused with the gritty, Iggy Pop-esque vocals of Segall, creating a tone of discomfort and abrasive vibes.
Beginning with the sputtering “Squealer,” rising to a crescendo toward the latter half of the album with a cover of Equals’ “Diversion,” Emotional Mugger is perhaps one of the most noisy, coarse and gritty of Segall’s solo work, on a mission to be uniformly as eccentric as possible.
Despite its understated nature, the production is an aspect to be heralded. Rhythm tracks soar in and out of the speakers, adding fuzz pedals and overdubs, and vocals distorted to the point of no recognition, causing Emotional Mugger to set a tone of discomfort and an aura of off-kilter charm. He is able to keep deft control of the chaos that is the sputtering riffs and cagey effect pedals that encapsulate all of the tracks, highlighting his deft artistry, not in attempting to hit every correct note, but savoring the missteps and embracing the fallible nature of music and life itself.
The most interesting track, though most bizarre and probably the least accessible for the average music listener, is “W.U.O.T.W.S.” Filled with synthesizer and beeps, droning and honking, with a soft chorus singing in the background that is impossible to pick apart from the muddled, yet controlled mess, the track is a layered and heavily effected concoction of sounds.
“Candy Sam,” the best track on Emotional Mugger, ends in a campfire-esque child sing-a-long with aggressive “la-la-las,” ending with a jarring and nearly terrifying man repeating the children, thereby bringing about immense unease along with the end of the album.
Emotional Mugger can be summarized perhaps in a few words: discomfort and abrasion. Distorted vocals and discordant drums weaving in and out of stringent guitar riffs create an atmosphere of gritty garage punk and glam rock-esque tunes that Segall has become known for. In the end, Segall has cemented his reputation in a particularly niche category of rock — one that prides itself on non-conformity and barrier-breaking.
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