Ty Segall’s latest project, “Emotional Mugger,” sounds like a natural progression in this San Francisco garage-rocker’s vast catalog. In the past decade, he’s amassed dozens of releases—live and solo albums, T. Rex covers, collaborations with SoCal scenesters Mikal Cronin and White Fence, his full band or as a member of Fuzz—with a kind of frenzied output his audience has come to expect. Segall knows how to make a guitar riff; he knows how to modernize past sounds in an age where “guitar bands” get less and less of a “cool” reputation. He knows how to make the most of two-minute songs, yet he leaves just enough space between releases to keep listeners eager to hear the next sound in his arsenal.
This time around though, the backing band The Muggers joins Segall, and it’s his first release that feels fully formed. Like part of something greater that he’s trying to achieve, like he jammed a knife to his distortion pedals and twisted it around for whatever psychedelic noise he can conjure.
Conceptually, the album is rife with candy metaphors that circumvent addiction, whether it be drug culture or the insidious distractions of technology, a lyrical venture that sounds almost personal, oft-kilter for the usually distant songwriter. There’s also the soulless doll on the cover, the eponymous “Candy Queen” that robs this character of their joy. While the attempt at pathos signals growth for the 28-year-old, these lyrics still lack the depth needed to truly connect with him.
In terms of musicianship, the album veers into all sorts of exciting, explosive sounds that stretch in length unlike his shoot-and-run punk gimmick of years past. Songs like “Diversion” or “Squealer” (parts one and two) showcase Segall’s mastery of the strings, his debt to the past with what he has to offer for the future and his ride to the edge of madness before arriving at some sort of clarity.