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TY SEGALL Freedom’s Goblin gets 9/10

Ty Segall
Freedom’s Goblin
Drag City

9/10

After releasing approx 3,217 albums in the last 10 years Ty Segall returns with his longest and most ambitious set yet. It is tempting to lump Segall with the recent crop of garage rock psychsters – bands such as King Gizzard and Thee Oh Sees – but this man has more to his musical character. At the heart of the matter, behind all the raucous distorted buzz, is a very solid songwriter whose messy garage singles read as love letters to all his heroes, from Marc Bolan to Ray Davies to The Beach Boys. He lets all his sides shine through on this – an epic, encyclopedic double album that winds its way through the 60s and 70s, and even incorporates some grungey 90s buzz along the way. In the hands of a lesser songwriter this exercise in stylistics would be tedious, but in Segall’s capable hands it is consistently entertaining.

At an hour and 15 minutes in length it’s impossible to cover all the material here, so here’s a taster of some of the finer moments. Opener Fanny Dog opens proceedings with a careening keyboard riff, guitar bombast, and epic Bolan-esque delivery. Notable is the use of horns, which Ty introduces on this album and uses to consistently great effect throughout. Then we have the epic ballad Rain. The lyrics are inconsequential 70s pseudo-mystical fluff – “I’m sick of the sunshine / I wish I could make it blue for you / instead it blooms” – but as with most of the material here they’re not the focal point. Instead focus your earholes on the masterful construction of the song, with Segall’s yearning, searching verses building up over a series of staccato drum fills to the choral crescendo.

Next we have an unlikely cover of Everyone’s a Winner, which compresses the original’s guitar riff into a solidified chunk of groovy granite and beats you over the head with it. This sets the experimental, playful tone for the rest of the album. Follow-up Despoiler of Cadaver lays down a monstrous slithering bass groove and builds upon it with enough swirling phased guitar to put early Tame Impala to shame.

The rest of the material is just as eclectic, with the only constant being the high level of songwriting quality – these are all little genre experiments, and they all work very well. When Mommy Kills You is a perfect chunky union of British freakbeat melodicity with proto-punk roar.  My Lady’s on Fire is a minor masterpiece. Starting like a Stones ballad, it takes an impromptu turn into a pop tune so well constructed that I suspect it’s making Marc Bolan weep (and dance) in his tomb. Alta is an epic heart-on-sleeve paean to 90s grunge, the sort of thing Gen X’ers need waved in their face so they understand that rock music is, in fact, ‘not dead’. Cry Cry Cry is a lovely slice of slowed down, blissed-out Merseybeat. Shoot You Up combines Rolling Stones swagger with AC/DC blunt force, wraps it up in Segall’s patented compressed guitar fuzz, and comes out an utter dumb-as-a-rock winner. She is a gargantuan Hawkwind-inspired jam that will shoot you into outer space and make you lose your hat. The list goes on.

With an album of this breadth there are one or two missteps, but they’re not terrible so much as under-cooked. Prison is a short noise piece that should’ve been left on the cutting room floor, Meaning combines an intriguing cowbell rave-up with a sadly half-baked main tune, and finale And, Goodnight is an overlong (aren’t they all?) country blues jam that overstays its welcome. But not before hitting us with an excellent reverby-vs-trebly dual guitar solo towards the end. Even at its weaker moments, there’s always a justification for why Ty decided to leave a tune in there – a snatch of a riff or a scrap of an interesting melody.

Segall has made a rare achievement here, an album with quality and quantity. Just make sure you pick it up quick because he’s on track to release another six albums by next Tuesday.

MATIJA ZIVKOVIC

 

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