Ty Segall – “Emotional Mugger”

Grade: B

Key Tracks: “Californian Hills,” “Emotional Mugger / Leopard Priestess”

With a non-stop flurry of activity, Ty Segall has done his best job at distancing himself from any one sound. But ironically, as “Emotional Mugger” proves, there is a distinct ‘Ty Segall sound’. It’s one part T. Rex, one part Count Five, one part Deep Purple, and like a half a part of Jack White. “Mugger” jumps around a bunch, but overall, it’s a trippy, fuzzy and loud trip down all of Segall’s interests.

“Mugger” is his eighth solo album in his seven year career, which is impressive in its own right. But this time period also includes, naturally, two albums with Fuzz, an album with the equally busy Mikal Cronin, an album with Ty Segall Band (one of my personal favorite albums), an album with White Fence, a T. Rex covers album, and long-gone singles with bands like Epsilons, Party Fowl, Sic Alps, the Perverts and the Traditional Fools. So the manic energy of his music makes sense – he has to be this manic to be this productive.

Segall’s last proper solo album (T. Rex cover album notwithstanding) was a surprisingly reflective, acoustic work that highlighted his more classic-rock influence. It was an inevitable album, there was only so many ways Segall could spin garage rock into something unique, and he was going to have to slow down at some point. But that point, much like the time in between his albums, wasn’t very long. “Mugger” doesn’t match the volume of the Fuzz albums, or the mania of the Ty Segall Band release, “Slaughterhouse,” but it blends fuzzy guitar, garage rock energy and smooth vocals as well as anything else he’s done.

Musically, there isn’t much to say about a Ty Segall album that’s unexpected – it’s loud and fuzzy, his guitar is center-stage, and every song is an adventure in some way. The great opening track, “Squealer,” is a very staccato song, and it transitions nicely into “Californian Hills,” a song that shows restraint but gives way to two-bar bits of mania every so often. He takes two guitar solos, on “Diversion,” and “Mandy Cream,” both effective. And his almost-signature guitar shrieking permeates the longest track, “Emotional Mugger / Leopard Priestess.”

A word being used in other reviews of this album is “addictive,” but without context, it’s a word that can be applied to his whole discography. He makes music that’s very easy to get into, even if it’s immensely heavy. It’s always almost catchy. Check “Preacher,” from Fuzz. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but yet everyone could get into it. Also, his music always has high replay value. The addiction on this album is an incredibly innocent one. This album is, at least sometimes, about childhood. A child’s voice shows up at the end of “Candy Sam,” one of the two songs that references candy. The other one is, uh, “Baby Big Man (I Want a Mommy).” There’s a, uh, baby on the cover, too. The album seems to have an innocence to it that Segall sometimes shies away from on other records. He’s a man that likes to have fun in the studio, and comparisons to the equally boy-ish Thurston Moore are not unjustified. Here, he embraces it, with childlike innocence and childlike innocence. It’s just that kids probably wouldn’t enjoy his shrieking guitar and destroyed pedalboards.

“Emotional Mugger” isn’t one of the best Segall albums, but it’s got some great tracks. And even when Segall isn’t at his most effective, he’s usually still entertaining. This is a more than passable set of loud jams for people who like fun, fuzzy rock tracks. It is diverse and energetic, and hits basically every mark in the Segall book. Now, to just wait and see what he does next.

If you like this, try: Peach Kelli Pop! I never got a review of her third album out but she makes an incomprehensible mix of garage-rock, hardcore punk and the poppiest, girly-girl imagery. She comes from the same garage Segall did.

Fuzz – “Fuzz”

(Photo Credit: Pitchfork)

Grade: B

Key Tracks: “What’s In My Head?” “One”

There’s been a few bands called Fuzz already, but no one deserves to inherit the name more than Ty Segall. Segall has already made a name for himself as the most prominent man in garage rock, never fearing to turn the volume and the distortion past the max. And with this debut of yet another side project, he’s matched his output from 2012. This, his solo “Sleeper” and an album with Mikal Cronin called “Reverse Shark Attack” are his 2013 contributions. His work isn’t consistently great, but it’s usually pretty reliable. “Fuzz” isn’t as good as Ty Segall Band’s relentless 2012 album “Slaughterhouse,” but that’s easily in my top 10 favorite albums.

Here’s the thing though – this isn’t a Ty Segall project. This is a band, one that wants to be seen as one. Ty Segall’s name shows up nowhere on the cover or in the band name. He doesn’t even play guitar – he’s on drums (and still on vocals). Fuzz is easily the most comprehensive-feeling project he’s done. Even “Slaughterhouse” showed how much Segall was in control. This is where “Fuzz” excels the most. It feels like a proper band. A very loud one.

The album starts with a feedback drone on “Earthen Gate” before starting the song on a crawling pace. The pace doesn’t last, but it helps to separate this from Segall’s other heavy works. “Fuzz” has the intensity, volume and distortion of “Slaughterhouse,” but purposely leaves out the speed. The tempos are largely pretty fast, but the songs take time to develop instead of blowing through at brutal, rapid paces. And there’s some experimentation, too. The album’s midpoint has two of the three longest songs – “Hazemaze” stops periodically and resets itself, and “Loose Sutures” has a lengthy period of near silence before Segall gets a drum solo. The closer, “One,” (the longest track) sets a blisteringly fast pace behind a punk beat and lets the band mess around on an instrumental finale.

The album has a feel of very early metal, back when it was kids in garages playing fast and loud while avoiding the simplicity of punk. “Fuzz” has a powerful, thrash element to it, thanks mainly to Charles Moothart’s pillars of guitar. Some simple riffs and solos turn a garage rock album into a classic rock-resembling one. But the album does feel a little repetitive at points. The volume you’d expect from a Segall project is there – “Preacher” is among the most assaulting songs he’s been involved with. But occasionally it rests just on the volume factor, which is nothing close to shocking for fans. And having the album’s longest track have such a long period of near-silence is pretty disappointing, as listeners might expect a soloing adventure. Luckily, it ends before it starts to get too gimmicky, and it ends on such a strong and fun track. We may never hear from Fuzz again, or they could release another album by March. But their debut is more than decent, with the loud and crunchy guitars we love, some great drum work, Segall’s strong voice (and a great vocal sub from Moothart), and that nostalgia factor. It’s not the best album Segall’s had his name on, but it does stand as one of the better ones.

If you like this, try: I’ll get out of Ty Segall because there’s so many garage-punk bands I love right now: Metz, Parquet Courts, Thee Oh Sees, FIDLAR, Pangea and the unforgettable Jay Reatard all have A++ albums to check out.