Ty Segall’s ‘Emotional Mugger’ is armed and dangerous
Thom Behrens | Thursday, February 4, 2016
It may be only death and taxes that one can expect with the same confidence as a new Ty Segall album. In the past eight years, he’s released seven solo albums, another one with his “Ty Segall Band,” several “Ty Rex” cover albums, multiple albums with his longtime collaborator Mikal Cronin as “Fuzz,” as well as countless other singles, side-projects, and collaborations. One Jan. 22, Ty Segall released his eighth album, entitled “Emotional Mugger,” on Drag City Records. Ty’s speed and intensity when it comes to releasing records translates over into the music itself: He’s become the king of deep, dark, fuzzy garage rock.
As he’s gained fame and notoriety in the musical world, Ty has been able to tighten the focus of his creative process. His records are increasingly more cohesive in sound, lyrical content and the relation between the two: a trait missing both in his earlier discography, as well as in the genre of Garage Rock in general. 2015’s “Manipulator” was a lighter, more glamorous LP than anything Ty had previously released and dealt directly with what the title suggests: Songs explore the idea and actions of people in our lives who manipulate others to get what they want. “Emotional Mugger” is a natural continuation of that thought process, but with a massive pendulum swing, sonically speaking. Dark, disturbing and at times jarring, the album is filled with creepy progressions, dissonant instrumentals and aggressively intrusive vocals from start to finish.
And that’s nothing compared to the lyrics. Segall experiments with the idea of objectifying the validation and attention we receive from other people to fill the holes in our egos. He fills his songs with vague sexual imagery, “I’m stuck in my old shoes waiting/For that finger feeling/Come on over babe” (“Squealer”) and fixates on the metaphor of “queens” whom dominate our headspace and become the subjects of our alienation and the objects of our desire. Thrown in for good measure is an enigmatic, overarching thematic referral to an insatiable desire for candy; in the title track, Segall declares, “I am the Emotional Mugger/like a bag of candy/give you pleasures.”
Ty is hell-bent on getting the conceptual message of “Emotional Mugger” across. Before the release of the album, he stood up the website emotionalmugger.com, which features a video of him and bandmates in the studio, playing from the album while wearing masks of crying babies. It also features a camp-y video starring “Dr. Ty Segall, MD,” who explains emotional mugging as “psycho-analytical subject to subject exchange formed as a response to a hyper-digital sexual landscape.” Additionally, the website flashes the number for the Emotional Mugger hotline, which, when called, plays a message imitating a phone-sex line: “I am itching to hear how I can fill the holes in your ego. Do you need a daddy? Do you need a baby? Do you have a child? Do you have a lover?” (spoken by Segall).
Additionally, Segall released a 14-minute music video featuring clips and isolated channels of content from the album: a chilling, ultra-disturbing video featuring Segall wandering Los Angeles encountering police brutality, the bizarrely depicted drug-overdose of a prostitute and a cult of people who spend their time standing in a room, staring at an amorphous blob of what can be assumed to represent digital media as a whole. Over the course of the video, the cult members’ eyes are grotesquely sealed shut as they willingly replace them with the screens of their smartphones. As if that weren’t enough, Segall’s face gradually becomes covered with boils, his eyes and hair fall out, and he eventually stumbles, deformed and dripping blood, onto the beach.
The concepts explored in this album are a disturbing view of human interaction, magnified by Segall’s unflinching depiction of them. Wrestling with how the digital age affects our relationships and psyches, “Emotional Mugger” is worth exploring if you are interested in thinking about how you use and are used by others in a society which increasingly focuses on the quantity over quality of people, events and impressions in our lives.
Recommended Tracks: “Squealer,” “Emotional Mugger”
Related Artists: Thee Oh Sees, Black Lips, King Tuff
Drag City Records