Ty Segall: Manipulator (Drag City) - album review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ty Segall


Drag City

Aug 26, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

“You’re the same as me/You’ll never be free,” snarls Ty Segall on “The Feels,” a Sabbath-informed piece of cosmic bummer sludge-punk. Call it poetic license, because with Manipulator, Segall has liberated himself from the strictures of album-length concepts. He’s strengthening and unifying the personas introduced on prior works, from Lennon-esque dreamer and glitter-encrusted acid-eater to violently momentous thrasher. The album fast-forwards the “What’s he going to do next?” excitement that previously extended between releases, and now song-to-song on the 2-LP Manipulator. It’s an unlikely meeting of sprawling, ADD-boosted agility and surgical, in-the-moment focus.

Yet an incredibly infectious wish-fulfillment element also enhances the record. Consider that just three years ago, Segall released Ty Rex EP, an endearingly haphazard collection of worshipful Marc Bolan covers that was the audio equivalent of lovingly-conceived fan mail. Here, in the wizardly Manipulator epic “The Singer,” as Segall urges us to “Sing/Sing/Louder,” it’s as if he’s willing himself to fledgling Electric Warrior status, and inviting us to take part in the transformation.

The album feels uniquely empowering. It’s like the mystery drug convincing kids they can fly in an afterschool special. It demands full volume. The worst that could be said about Manipulator is its aliveness is almost suffocating, particularly during an EP-length run of scorching two-minute fuzz bombs dominating the record’s back half.

But for all the air-guitar-inviting solos, Segall is also sharpening his lyrical focus. Particularly noteworthy is “Who’s Producing You?” an unsparing look at the politics of recording fidelity in the digital age. After all, this is an album that mutilates its healthy mid-fi sheen with searing feedback just as often as it utilizes it to deploy unexpectedly poignant string arrangements. These contradictions are rendered with a wary, self-referential intelligence reminiscent of the sell-out blues tales populating Mac DeMarco’s Salad Days.

It’s a timely theme for Segall to begin exploring, because he may be on the precipice of something sizable. It’s easy to imagine teen stoners with no foreknowledge of anything under the indie umbrella nodding along to ecstatic, riff-propelled absurdities like “Ask your bossman for a raise/Tell your momma she better keep her change.” Yet it’s just as likely that baby boomers might respect the titanic, Zeppelin-gleaned bottom end of “Feel.” The unashamedly positive album-closer “Stick Around” actualizes this inclusivity with a wholly communal sing-along. It’s an appropriately celebratory ending to the best no-qualifiers-needed rock record 2014 will likely witness. (www.ty-segall.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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