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Bond with dad over Ty Segall’s ‘Freedom’s Goblin’

| Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Charlie Kenney | The Observer

Keep “Freedom’s Goblin” away from your dad. One listen could surrender his heart to the iron grip of Ty Segall, leaving you, your siblings and your mother stranded on familiar streets, paved in contemporary musical sensibilities. The record transcends “Hey, that sounds like that Beatles record your mom and I used to like,” entering “Oh my, I haven’t heard stuff this rockin’ since ‘Born to Run’” territory.

“Freedom’s Goblin” owes its dad-friendly sound to Segall’s bottomless record collection and intimate knowledge of rock history (which he studies with concentrations in Syd Barrett, The Band and The Beatles). The record, much like Segall’s 2017 self-titled released, communicates history in music. But, where last year’s record fell short (an incoherent and overproduced review of Segall’s personal history), “Freedom’s Goblin” excels.

Segall, versed in both the experimental (2013’s “Twins”) and the barebones (2008’s “Ty Segall”), pursues the academic on his latest record — faithfully reproducing the atmospherics of his influences in a full-bodied classic rock disorientation, composed in exquisitely gritty garage-inflected prose.

“Freedom Goblin’s” 19-song track list certainly isn’t short-winded, but its variety and depth entertain listeners through its entirety. Enlisting the help of demi-god producer Steve Albini, Segall turns his rock-and-roll visions — eclectic dream sequences merging roots rock charm with discotheque rhythms and garage ridden abandon — into a singular, albeit sprawling, unit.

Melodic, slow-burning tracks like “Fanny Dog,” “Alta” and “The Last Waltz” construct the record’s backbone. The tracks, indebted to the sonic architecture of The Band and contemporaries, sit on a classic Americana foundation, and pop (complete with accents of organ and piano) and thrust outward with the thunderous rhythm sections and the earsplitting guitars of the Segall and Albini production school.

“Cry Cry Cry” and “I’m Free” mimic the softer, acoustically driven qualities of ‘60s folk-pop (i.e. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield), finely tuning each detail — down to the vague mantras about sadness and freedom — to reproduce the emotional aesthetic of the source material.

But “Freedom’s Goblin” undoubtedly peaks when it strays off rock history’s well-worn roads. “Every 1’s A Winner,” Segall’s cover of Hot Chocolate’s 1978 disco number, crawls defiantly from the blue, dismantling any barrier that stands between rock and disco. “Despoiler of Cadaver” channels Bowie, bending Segall’s distorted guitars and ominous subject matters to an eminently danceable funk groove. And “The Main Pretender” resembles a Can record, sent through a meat grinder with a buzzed-out Robert Plant on vocals — and, somehow, it works.

Segall rounds out the record with a healthy sampling of the punk and garage tracks — notably “She” and “5 Ft. Tall” — but these too carry the same weight and dramatic flair that characterize the rest of the album.

It’s difficult for an artist as prolific as Segall (“Freedom’s Goblin” is his tenth album) to remain relevant, let alone innovative. But with his LP numbers entering the double digits and with an album that harkens back to the past instead of looking towards the future, he managed to do so. Perhaps it’s Segall’s willingness to move backward while so many of his fellow veterans are trying to move forward (Arcade Fire’s atrocious 2017 LP and Beck’s late game snooze fest) that keeps listeners and critics coming back. The danger of looking back, betting on something that many have pronounced dead, excites something within people.

It’s a nostalgic power that can sway your dad and maybe even you — if you give it time. But I’d recommend taking a dive into your dad’s record collection first.

Artist: Ty Segall

Album: Freedom’s Goblin

Label: Drag City

Favorite Tracks: “Alta,” “She,” “The Main Pretender”

If you like: The Oh Sees, The Mystery Lights, The Band

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

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