‘No man is good three times’ proclaims the artwork of Emotional Mugger, the eighth long player from Ty Segall. The ever prolific Segall has long since dispelled this theory (as utilised by the campaign against Roosevelt in 1940 on the occasion of his running for a third term as President of the United States) with a string of thrilling garage rock records under a variety of guises.
‘Squealer’ starts the record on a high with an insistent beat giving way to a huge chorus – at points recalling his 2014 album Manipulator, and is certainly among the more conventional moments on Emotional Mugger. ‘Californian Hills’ is the first in a series of challenging tracks, meshing together a classic sounding chug with a deranged and demented sounding jump in time signature, ultimately coming across as though this is a song that was never truly finished.
But even at its weakest, there’s something innately enjoyable about the song writing. ‘Breakfast Eggs’ delivers a dense layer of fuzz over tribal sounding drums and it is the middle third of the record where it is at its best, with Segall’s determination to be offbeat to some extent contained within vaguely traditional song structures. A relentless cover of The Equals’ ‘Diversion’ is, in particular, a real highlight, delivering a pummelling riff coupled with a classic Segall vocal.
‘Candy Sam’ is arguably the closest thing to a conventional pop song on the record, yet this is subverted by an eerie children’s choir style coda which is subsequently brought to a halt by a chilling scream.
Emotional Mugger is at times a frustrating listen (penultimate track ‘W.U.O.T.W.S’ is a maddening sound collage) but certainly carries enough about it to make it worthwhile. There is a sense, though, that this is a record that sees Segall at a crossroads. At times evoking Fuzz (where Segall moonlights on drums) there’s a density to the sound of Emotional Mugger that helps to compensate for occasions when the slack sound trips into sloppiness and Segall appears to be searching for ways to keep us, and perhaps more so himself, engaged.