Sitting around listening to Ty Segall’s newest album for Drag City, Emotional Mugger, knowing that I have an album review pledged to write, I have to fight the urge to write every comparison to T-Rex I can imagine. Segall’s career is like one long homage to that early glam rock when people wore feather boas, but also played with a ton of fuzz and sang about trash and hub cap diamond star halos.
I can understand the impulse, I fell in love T-Rex after hearing “20th Century Boy” in a car commercial in the early millennium, doing for Marc Bolan what a VW commercial did for Nick Drake. Segall is just a few days younger than me, I wonder if he knows the ad.
Emotional Mugger, as much as it is heavier and stranger than anything to come out of the early seventies, still holds on to the comparison. It’s as if The Slider were put through a David Lynch filter (in which normality is presented as abnormality, and the absurd is something that we just have to deal with).
This is most evident in the two promotional videos for the album, one of which has him donning a baby-face mask (not Kenneth Edmonds) and speaking nonsense, while the other attempts at some sort of explanation of what emotional mugging is, also mostly nonsense. The latter video ends with a woman and a man engaging in emotional mugging (a non-physical, non-verbal act). They just sit there in silence staring at the camera. Fucking weird.
The Muggers (his backing band for this album) are all over the place, and do not settle for the ordinary backing band thing. The lyrics are mostly incomprehensible, centering mostly around candy. With that being said, Segall’s music, not just here, but throughout his career, might be inappropriate for those uninterested in something weird for weird’s sake.
It is at this intersection that Emotional Mugger is most interesting. The perfect example comes at the end of the track “Candy Sam.” It starts off just like any other track on the album, but slowly a chorus of whistles comes in, and the fuzz starts to drop out, revealing at it’s core an acoustic guitar and a chiming melody playfully sung by children. It shows a hidden complexion not visible on the surface. In fashion, Segall rips the pillow from under your head with a loud, belching noise that abruptly ends the song.
This is where Ty Segall succeeds. He plays both to the audience and against them. He combines a deep knowledge of where the music came from, and betrays a complete incomprehension of the motivation for the art. It is both throwback and original. Emotional Mugger probably isn’t for everyone. I think a quote from the lyrics sums it up nicely: “Turn around/Fight/Yeehaw/Shotgun, sugar and spice.”
Article: Christopher Gilson