#40: JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
It’s 2016, and after eight years and fifty bajillion albums, Ty Garrett Segall is the undisputed master of modern psychedelic garage rock. On his own he has classics like Melted to his name; Slaughterhouse, recorded with his touring band as the Ty Segall Band, is one of the most vicious rock ‘n’ roll albums you will ever hear; his work with Fuzz is some of the best stoner rock ever recorded. Disciple/touring bandmate Mikal Cronin has gone on to stake a claim of his own, and his work with King Tuff brought Black Moon Spell to the next level. He’s the guru of the noisy underground, and with good reason.
His last two proper LPs, however, seem to have been a transitional thing for him; they seemed searching, as though Segall was no longer sure of who he was or where he was going. 2013’s Sleeper was uncharacteristically subdued, favouring acoustic guitars and hushed songs over the thick fuzz and twisted weirdness of Melted or Twins. Released a year later, Manipulator returned the volume but left out the bizarre out-there experimentation that characterized his early work. It was also very straightforward, for Ty Segall: it was a wall-to-wall collection of stately classic rock tropes lifted out of Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Bad Company, without much of the high-flying psychedelia. It’s good stuff, but in the face of everything that came before both Sleeper and Manipulator feel staid, like what would happen if a normie tried to approximate Ty Segall.
Emotional Mugger brings him back around full circle to Melted again, returning the weird conceptual nature, the odd noises, and the sense of trippy dread while keeping the traditional structuring he explored on his previous two records. The opening riff of “Squealer” shows that his old love of slathering his stuff in thick layers of goopy fuzz has returned; “Diversion”, “Mandy Cream”, and “Candy Sam” all continue in this vein. “Emotional Mugger/Leopard Priestess” and “Baby Big Man (I Want A Mommy)” hearken back to the experimental vibe that he brought to albums like Hair and Reverse Shark Attack while keeping their feet planted in the earth. “Squealer Two” is funky, adding wah into the fuzz-guitar mix to create something that sounds like David Bowie’s “Fame” as done by a severely drugged out Black Sabbath- which is to say that it rocks. The only real missteps on the album are “Breakfast Eggs” and “W.U.O.T.W.S.”: “W.U.O.T.W.S.” probably doesn’t need to be explained, as it’s the sort of weirdo run-down-the-radio-dial that sounds cool once and then gets skipped every time after; “Breakfast Eggs” has a nice rolling groove of a riff but the whole “Candy, I want your candy” line falls flat. I get that it’s playing with a rock ‘n’ roll trope but it doesn’t succeed in subverting it so much as it revels too much in its overall cheesiness.
There is also an overall theme running through Emotional Mugger, about how modern existence and the overabundance of technology robs us of our emotional response to stimuli and overburdens us with information and experience, but to Segall’s credit it doesn’t interfere with the proceedings at all. In the end, it’s a summation of everything that sets Ty Segall apart as an artist and a performer, and it sounds really great when you crank it up loud.
Sometime Ty Segall associate and power pop pusher Mikal Cronin proved himself an expert at writing big hooks in songs that felt familiar without being derivative on MCII. That album has a permanent place on my phone, largely because even if it wasn’t there the songs would be popping up into my head on a constant basis. MCIII doesn’t have that same quality. While the album is still full of songs that are very recognizably Mikal Cronin songs, they don’t have the same sense of ease in conveying giant hummable melodies. The proceedings of MCIII seem darker, more depressed, and infinitely less sure of themselves. Right from the beginning of “Turn Around”, the sound comes off as muddier; Cronin sings at the same basic volume as he does on MCII, but here he struggles to be heard over the large, enveloping middle that has arisen out of the production.The rest of the first side follows suit, with a hesitant Cronin struggling for space with the rest of the instruments, while those instruments muddle along in an unexciting fashion. The second half, with its numbered conceit, improves marginally; here he adds piano and strings into the mix, which has the effect of livening up the tracks. The same problem with burying the hooks occurs, however, and in the end it’s just as unsatisfying as the first side. Even a surefire winner like “iv) Ready” falters from the odd reticence that mars the album. MCIII is, compared to the majority of pop albums released, a decent enough album, but in direct comparison to is predecessor it falters significantly.
My sweet Lord, those drums, and that wiry guitar work. It’s like someone achieving their own personal Revolver in a dirty hole-in-the-wall. This guy has already proven himself to be a modern-day Robert Pollard, churning out a staggeringly prolific catalog of mostly very good songs. “Music For A Film 1” takes him in a much more expansive sonic direction, although the title sounds like the placeholder filename of some experimental studio fuckery. Maybe he needs to do that more often.