by rory mcarthur (@rorymeep)
Last January, Ty Segall quietly delivered one of the finest records of 2017. That is, of course, quiet as in it was met with little fanfare. The music, on the other hand, was a short, sharp shot of frenetic energy that blew the new year’s blues away with consummate ease. And now, almost a year to the day, a new project, entitled Freedom’s Goblin, has been unleashed upon the world to do the same. A double album of 19 tracks, the record sees Segall at his most dynamic, hopping nimbly from futuristic disco to some of the fuzziest rock seen since Dwayne Johnson grew out his beard last year. In lesser hands, this sort of smashing together of styles could have resulted in a disjointed mess of a record, but instead, the constant variation creates an exhilaratingly sprawling joyride of ups and downs that at the very least, will leave you with a gigantic ear-to-ear smile.
Straight from the Conan road-tested opener Fanny Dog, Segall manages to whip up a palpable sense of almost giddy excitement. Riding a cacophonous wave of uplifting horns, rock ’n’ roll piano lines, and of course a few hard-hitting guitar riffs, you can almost visualise the cheeky grins of those involved as they pound out the track dedicated to the Californian’s pet pooch. It’s amongst the catchiest and most infectious rock songs you’re likely to hear all year and lingers in the memory long after the album’s one-hour 14-minute runtime is up.
After a brief flirtation with piano-driven balladry on Rain, the energy picks right back up again with an all expenses paid trip to disco-land. A fuzzed-up cover of Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner followed by an original composition of the funky disposition, Despoiler of Cadaver, provide a welcome deviation from the usual garage rock formula, providing some genuinely unexpected high points from the whole album. This trip into unfamiliar genres continues later on with the Black Sabbath influenced crunch of She. Previous records have often sounded heavy of course, but never quite with this much force behind them. The track crackles with metallic sludge, shot through with some Ozzy-esque yowling to complete the picture. It’s one of the longer tracks on the album, and it’s all the better for it, providing a centrepiece that’s sure to go down as a live favourite, in addition, to probably the highlight of the album itself.
With all this in mind then, it’s perhaps not surprising that the album ends on a rather ambitious note. The 12-minute And, Goodnight begins as a pleasant sounding jam but soon reveals itself as an electric reworking of the title track from the 2013 acoustic project Sleeper. For long-time fans of the artist, this is a real treat, to hear such a fantastic song reimagined so well serves as a reminder of why they fell in love with this artist in the first place, while simultaneously feeling right at home capping off a new set of songs.
Aside from this, there are of course some other classic Segall hallmarks to be found lurking throughout the tracklist. The artist’s tendency to shove instruments through waste disposal units, or at least that’s what it sounds like, crops up a few times, and it sounds just as good as it did on 2016’s wonderfully distorted Emotional Mugger. The horns that lift so many of these tracks to greatness get the full treatment on The Main Pretender, sounding about as sleazy as is allowed by law. And even before that, When Mommy Kills You showcases some terrifically disgusting guitar tones that somehow manage to fit perfectly alongside some of the more subdued material. But that’s just the beauty of this album. It’s the sound of an artist not afraid to experiment, but equally not afraid to revisit some old sounds and give them another spin.
According to the man himself, the concept of the album was to effectively eschew one altogether, and it undoubtedly has been a resounding success. Not all of the tracks work, Shoot You Up, for example, sounds a little too similar to last years Break a Guitar to really satisfy, but the general level of consistency across such a mammoth and diverse tracklist is nothing short of astounding. Segall tips his toes into disco, metal, and a whole host of other styles and comes out of the other side a bona-fide genre-hopping hero.
This may well be the musician’s finest release yet, at the very least standing toe to toe with some of his previous classics. It’s a treasure trove that demands multiple listens to uncover its hidden gems, of which there are a great many, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone begrudging a few extra listens to really get to grips with it when the music is this good.
At the end of it all, it seems that Segall’s Freedom Band chose their name wisely.