Release Date: Aug 26, 2014
Record label: Drag City
Last week, I listened to Ty Segall discuss his musical epiphanies to Marc Maron during an episode of the WTF podcast. In it, he mentioned some classic rock standbys and then described what has over time become a fairly common eureka amongst musicians born after 1977, which is that introduction and subsequent immersion into punk rock music. It’s usually at this point when all that’s come to be understood becomes irrelevant, and the immediate dismantling of classic rock and/or pop paradigms be administered.
The death of rock and roll has been declared countless times. With the never-ending torrent of stale, pop-friendly hits infiltrating the mainstream, it’s become a constant to hear the dissent of nostalgia-deprived rock fans longing for a resurgence. And, like a rolling wave, there always proves to be an album or a band to break through the curtain of mediocrity, restoring hope that, indeed, rock and roll does live on.
With Manipulator, the oft-frenetic visionary Ty Segall slows his cadence to a coherent, deliberate pace. He trades chaotic cacophony for clarity. And instruments actually ring out with precision, which, for Ty…is kinda weird. The shift may be a polarizing phenom for longtime fans who fell in love with his motor oil-soaked backwash-pop.
Have you heard the news? From the rumble of Royal Blood's pedal skewered tub-thumpery to the cinematic fist-pumping of War on Drugs... rock and roll is back from the dead. At least that's what everyone keeps banging on about. But for people, like Ty Segall, it never went away. The last six years ….
Ty Segall has managed to rattle off over a dozen albums of eccentric garage rock in just six years. But ‘Manipulator’, his latest, feels like the moment the 27-year-old Californian has been building towards all along. Whereas the gentle, stripped-down psychedelia of last year’s ‘Sleeper’ captured Segall at his most intimate, ‘Manipulator’ neatly assimilates the lessons learned from each of Segall’s previous releases.Also, the breadth of influences across those albums – from Bo Diddley and T Rex to Hawkwind and The Who – is utilised here with a new level of expertise.
"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.
Behold! After something of a hiatus (under a year, and excluding other projects), San Fran fuzzmonger Ty Segall returns with his seventh album, throwing everything into the mix. The end result is wondrously overwhelming. His earlier, less structured and more chaotic dives into free-form noise are gone (perhaps siphoned into his other band, Fuzz), but there remains a love of distortion, crisp beats (self-played) and 1963- era Beatles backing vocals behind all that vintage valve venom.
Full of raggedly proficient, scathingly fast songs, Ty Segall's six-year, seven-album tear was marked by willful disrespect, both for modern concepts of calculated release rollouts and any notion of music as something to be savored or scrutinized. Recorded in guerilla-style bursts, these albums were as reckless in the handling and representation of their influences as Segall was in the act of recording them, mulching a wide variety of genres and modes with apparent disregard for how they'd blend together: effervescent beach pop crossed with sludgy heavy metal, moody psych with caustic grunge, all at bracing punk-rock speeds. This approach peaked with the explosive, baroque Slaughterhouse, at which point Segall began to evolve, at first gradually via the broad-spectrum insanity of Twins, then suddenly with the mournful acoustic nightmare folk of Sleeper.
It's not exactly a secret that Ty Segall has been allowing his inner popmeister to take the spotlight with greater frequency as his solo career has gained traction, and with 2014's Manipulator, he's delivered one of his most satisfying fusions of pop songcraft and rock & roll snazz. The album opens with the title song, a glorious Brian Wilson homage built around vintage keyboards, but on most of the tracks, Segall's guitars take center stage, and while the expected buzzy chaos is still a major part of his sound, the acoustic textures of "The Clock" and "Green Belly," and the dueling electric/acoustic lines on "Don't You Want to Know (Sue)," show that his picking can be neat and precise when he wants it to be (and the former suggests he's been listening to his old T. Rex albums).
Hardly anything is said about Ty Segall without mentioning his productivity, and for good reason. With his one solo-album-per-year schedule and a myriad of side projects, collaborative LPs, one-off singles and EPs every year, plus producing local garage rock acts and running his own label, Segall keeps himself busy. ‘Manipulator’ is his seventh album and follows last year’s odd-one-out acoustic solo album ‘Sleeper’ and the proto-metal side-project FUZZ.
Rock is replete with musicians who toil away in multiple guises, releasing album after album with confounding frequency. If, every so often, a Jack White might leap from regional obscurity to international superstardom and friend of the legends, seemingly despite not altering his modus operandi from that which made him a staple of Detroit bars for several years, it's more common for these musicians to remain no more than beloved cults. Many, too, seem to share a dogged devotion to a form of musical conservation: think of Nick Salomon, who as the Bevis Frond has devoted decades to psychedelia and its variants, or Robert Pollard, who, whether with Guided by Voices, as a solo artist or with enough other bands to fill a substantial festival bill, has released what appears to be a total of 82 albums of what he calls "the four Ps" – pop, punk, prog and psychedelia.
Since popping the cork on his career back in 2008, Ty Segall has become synonymous with the word “prolific. ” But unlike so many artists who commit their every passing whim to tape, in Segall’s case, it’s not just an impulsive quirk or random data dump—it’s the very engine that pushes him to greater heights. Whether it’s the sad-eyed garage-rock of the 2011 LP Goodbye Bread, the scorching psych-punk of Slaughterhouse from 2012, or the acoustic stoner reveries of last year’s Sleeper, the increasingly narrow windows between Segall’s discrete releases seemingly inspire him to knuckle down and fully inhabit a specific aesthetic before conquering the next one.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Taking fourteen months on an album? Par for the course surely? Fourteen months for a Ty Segall album on the other hand represents something of a genuine go-slow. Ever since the audaciously impressive 1-2-3 of Hair, Slaughterhouse and Twins in 2012, Ty Segall has gained a reputation for busting out albums of impeccably high standards in nothing more than a few months.
Astonishingly, it’s almost been a full year since the last proper Ty Segall release. Just what, exactly, does he think he’s playing at? This is a man who has taken the present-day convention for three-year album cycles and treated it with a visceral level of contempt, instead turning out fully-fledged, and largely excellent, releases on an annual basis; the twelve-month lay-off between his last album, Sleeper, and this new one represents the longest of his career to date. It’s just about forgivable on the ground that he’s still only twenty-seven; if he carries on at this rate, he’ll be leaving quite the canon behind.
Ty Segall is a musician who doesn’t sit still. He’s been cranking out albums at a crazy pace for much of his career, and his pace has only increased over time, putting out albums like Hair, his collaboration with White Fence and the eponymous debut of his side-project Fuzz while also recording his own solo records, like Twins and last year’s Sleeper. That last record, the mostly acoustic album that came out in fall 2013, felt like a departure for a guy who so often plays his guitars so loud it’s hard to get through a review of his records without hearing about faces melting.
Ty SegallManipulator(Drag City)3 1/2 out of 5 stars Reinvention, change and transformation are essential elements in pop music. You don’t need to mimic David Bowie’s constantly altering personas to stay relevant, but from the Beatles to Tom Waits and even the Ramones, change is a critical element for longevity in the always fluid music world. It’s something even the once defiantly low-fi garage rocker Ty Segall understands.
Ty Segall started off as one of the leading lights of San Francisco's 2000s garage-rock scene, but as he releases his seventh solo album, the label hardly still applies. Late-Sixties styles trump Segall's usual brand of offbeat hard rock here, and if there's anything garage about Manipulator, it's the unbridled energy running through some of its best tracks. While the songs with more muscle hit hardest, like the headbanging "Feel," Segall also nails cinematic pop on the highlight "The Singer," whose swelling strings are a far cry from his early low-fi efforts.
There’s one entire year separating Ty Segall’s last album, Sleeper, and his new one, Manipulator. That might as well be an eternity for Segall, whose prolificacy has yielded some of the best, most paradoxically evolved garage rock of the decade so far. If there’s one thing that can be said about Manipulator, it doesn’t waste those whopping 12 months of gestation.
The über-prolific San Fran savant known as Ty Segall has been multitasking like a motherfucker over the past few years, releasing records at a clip that’d make Bob Pollard or Ryan Adams green with envy. Yet on last year’s Sleeper, a woozy/folky/droney lo-fi excursion he seemed to be taking a musical deep breath, and now we know why: batteries duly recharged, he’s back in all his messy, glammy, garagey glory, with what just may turn out to be one of 2014’s finest full-on rawk excursions. How does yours truly count thee ways? Stones, T.
Ty Segall — Manipulator (Drag City)Ty Segall’s craft has been catching up with his energy for a while, the bungee-jumping euphoria of his earliest songs giving way to a more layered, better considered approach. For a long time, I thought it wasn’t going to work, that although pretty much every album demonstrated growing skill, none of them provided the same ice-bucket-over-the-head shock and thrill of the self-titled. Sure, he came close a couple of times, with the guitar-army fuzziness of the full-band Slaughterhouse, with the spun-out psychedelic grooves of his collaboration with White Fence’s Tim Presley.
With a dizzying output of solo and collaborative releases since 2008, garage rock wunderkind Ty Segall appears to be labouring under the curse of profligacy, his every waking hour seemingly given over to recording the sounds in his head. And while artists such as Segall inspire a certain type of superfan to collect everything they issue, it's just as easy for the casual listener to not know where to start. OK, so Manipulator is a very good place to start.
With all due respect to The Black Keys, Manipulator is the kind of album I’ve always hoped they would make. It is not, however, the album anyone expected Ty Segall to make. Segall’s seventh album, at the age of twenty-seven, is an effortlessly retro rock affair that is heavy on hooks, light on ….
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