Ty Segall's 'Manipulator' is a roaring, massive masterpiece
By NICK TAVARES
STATIC and FEEDBACK Editor
Put on this record and find nearly 60 minutes of ridiculous guitar bursts and the catchiest tunes to be heard all summer. It’s overpowering. It’s thrilling. And it’s exhausting.
The feeling listening through Ty Segall’s Manipulator for the first time — even within the first few minutes — is an almost overwhelming sense of history. It has grooves for days and everything feels fresh and immediately familiar. It’s a swirl of 1970s rock radio pop and post-Monterrey pyschedelia, buzzing and flowing in and out of headphones and punctuated by manic guitar freak-outs.
Segall is another one of those frenetic brains, an artist that doesn’t seem to need sleep and is more than happy to shred out one song on a guitar after another and call it a record. Couple that with a natural sense of melody and its the makings of a massive, memorable canon. But that sensation is multiplied running through his new album.
It’s the sound that only comes from a musical mind that’s jammed with ideas and nervous artistic energy, which is to say that it’s not at all forced. This was not recorded to be the summer record to end all summer records. It sounds like it could become that, though. Any business plan was foisted on this album after the fact; the music itself is just a collection of ideas followed to fruition.
The first single, “Feel,” encapsulates the myriad faces of this record within four minutes. It takes a bass-heavy T. Rex swagger in traveling through a sunny melody before everything turns dark and weird. The vocals turn up higher and take on a strained edge, the rhythms get chunkier and eventually hell breaks loose as Segall let’s an unhinged solo fly, all damaged strings and repeated Crazy Horse leads while the song goes off. There’s a sudden breakdown that turns all percussion before the band kicks back up with a “Feel, feel, feel” refrain over an increasingly frantic backing. It’s madness. It’s also a perfect little slice of pop music.
That innate understanding of what makes a great rock and roll song sustains Manipulator through all its weird faces and asides. Collected, Segall’s songs sound like a compendium of the best of the Nuggets collections and individual, they’d all work nestled into a random mix tape.
And the influences are boundless. “The Singer” rolls like Segall’s answer to Marc Bolan’s “Rabbit Fighter.” “The Clock” plays like the Small Faces and “Feel” like the Kinks’ “Powerman.” The adjacent tracks “Susie Thumb” and “Don’t You Want to Know (Sue)?” hang together like one of the mini-suites from The Who Sell Out. It all hangs together without sounding intentionally retro or as some forced genre exercise. It falls out naturally, every hook and melody and deranged guitar riff.
That’s the real joy in this album. This isn’t a tribute or an elaborate game of dress-up, it’s music with an ear for history played with a palpable excitement. That excitement passes from Segall to the listeners, who will be running to play this record for friends, annoying car passengers and co-workers and strangers on the street. And in that way, Segall, who already has a daunting back catalog, will enter that same rarefied air, eventually.
In the meantime, the summer isn’t over. There’s a lot of music packed onto these four sides that need to be played, and they will be played loudly. History lessons can come later.
E-mail Nick Tavares at firstname.lastname@example.org