Artist: Ty Segall
Album: Emotional Mugger
Label: Drag City
Release Date: 01/22/2016
The word “mugging” has multiple definitions. Two of the most common ones are a robbery of someone in a public place and someone hamming it up in front of a camera or audience. On his eighth studio album, West Coast garage rocker Ty Segall proposes a third definition.
Describing the act of “emotional mugging” in a short video released online, Segall says, “Emotional mugging is a psychoanalytic subject to subject exchange formed as a response to our hyper-digital sexual landscape.”
What this so-called exchange sounds like on the album’s two-part title track is a hazy, psychedelic stomp featuring stabbing guitar lines and Segall’s echoed vocals anchoring the proceedings. The song’s second half, entitled “Leopard Priestess,” even sees Segall alternating between urgent chanting and guttural growls before dueling guitars and distortion swallow the tune whole.
“California Hills” is another song possessed by duality. On one hand, the number appears content to plod along at a sludge metal pace with thudding drums and fuzzed out guitar, but interspersed throughout the track are speedy time signature shifts featuring alternate drum rolls and trebly guitar noodling. Each shift only lasts a few seconds, but the brief blast is enough to snap a drifting listener to attention, eager to see what might happen next.
Though featuring such moments of conflict between two differing sides, Emotional Mugger remains a prime example of single-minded vision. Whether adding electronic noise to the mix or bringing in Melvins’ drummer Dale Crover to aid in a cover of The Equals’ “Diversion,” it’s still Segall’s show. And he seems to revel in being the creator of an entire record of good old dirty rock.
“Emotional mugging,” he says in the previously mentioned video, “is an unfortunate but essential practice in the age of digital intimacy.”
With listeners today engrossed in their phones and social media, it might take a “mugging” to shake them out of the reverie. As long as Segall is the one doing the shaking, listeners are in good hands.
– Michael Cimaomo