Emotional Mugger is the follow up to 2014’s Manipulator which Ty Segall spent over a year on. In that time, he put together an incredible scuzzy garage, psych pop, and glam album that's became known as his most complete work to date. It’s an album that you could introduce to a friend or relative who's disillusioned with guitar bands, and get them excited about rock'n’roll in the twenty-first century.
In contrast, it’s best to check with whoever you introduce Emotional Mugger to that they’re stable enough to handle the insanity at play here. The first sign that this album is a more intense ride than its predecessor is the disturbing baby head used on the cover. The second is that Segall's completely eschewed any attempt of a regular press release and instead presents abstract words on a page that seem steeped in questions of mental degradation. Moreover, there’s a video clip where he parodies a psychiatrist on TV. During the promotional clip he explains that an emotional mugger is a 'psychoanalytic subject-to-subject exchange formed as a response to our hyper-digital sexual landscape'.
This satirical, yet semi-serious take on behavioural changes that occur due to new technology isn't isolated to promotional materials. It permeates the very heart of the album through the presence of a hectic synth and theremin sound. The opening cut ‘Squealer’, gives us the first introduction these instruments, which do a good job of mimicking the suggested theme of the album from the aforementioned parody clip - you couldn't get closer to the soundtrack of someone over immersed in their phones, and having a breakdown from becoming isolated from the physical world than this. Or it's just manic sound off the bat without any context - after all, 'Candy Sam', appears to be about candy, and he's far from a serious person. But either way, the experimental sounds further him from any notion of pastiche and land him in his own innovative garage psych world.
Aside from the demonic synth and theremin sounds, the essence of a dark underworld also comes across in the songwriting. ‘California Hills’ evokes Ozzy Osbourne’s commanding vocals and Iommi’s sludgy riffery to brilliant effect. But as with every other track on this album, there’s no such thing as familiarity. As soon as you get comfortable with a relatively conventional structure, it’s cut with a schizophrenic outburst of lo-fi fuzzy adrenalised fun.
It's this disregard for comfort that makes Emotional Mugger exciting and Segall doesn't attempt to make a single radio friendly song. He obviously has the ability to craft garage psych that could be neatly packaged for a major label. But as a creative who's on his ninth solo record and done countless brilliant collaborations, he's not interested in a retread for commercial purposes. Instead, here's a record that shows an innovative appropriation of sound that makes for one of the most exhilarating and original albums he's ever done. People are better off with the maverick force of Ty Segall in their lives.
8Cai Trefor's Score