‘Emotional Mugger’ bears the unsettling album artwork of a macabre looking doll, a perfect visual metaphor to describe the paranoid, unrelenting musical jewels contained within garage-punk-freak Ty Segall’s eerie 8th studio album.
‘Squealer’ commences proceedings with shifting bipolar high and low fidelities, giving way to a pulverising guitar lick during the chorus before the fuzzed-up bass pushes the guitar to snap into a frenzy. This madcap guitar odyssey is pursued by sinister backing vocals, a foreboding warning of the ensuing carnage on the album. The intro of ‘California Hills’ almost lulls you into a false sense of security with sugar coated vocals, however, the filthy, prowling guitar riff exists as a reminder of the seedy underbelly of the song, and any innocent misconceptions maintained are shattered by the frenetic tempo changes culminating in the guitar whirring into meltdown. The squalid riff off the following track, ‘Emotional Mugger/Leopard Priestess’ could have been lifted straight from Josh Homme’s subconscious, progressing to Ty fervently strangling his guitar to choke out a melody whilst the droning bass guitar bares its teeth like a feral dog.
The guitar throughout the album is utterly unpredictable, continuing onto the dirge-y ‘Breakfast eggs’ with unquestionably perverse lyrics, ie. “Looking and touching her little legs”, begging questions of what atrocities may be going through Mr. Segall’s head. ‘Diversion’ is not particularly outstanding, save for the guitar solo of molten fire that erupts whilst Ty reduces the fretboard to ash and ruin. Both ‘Baby Big Man (I Want a Mommy)’ and ‘Mandy Cream’ sound positively deranged as the guitar screams like a wounded animal. Driving drums propel ‘Candy Sam’ as the guitar screeches, until the chords melt into a toxic blur, and the “la la la” school yard chants creep into the nightmare of Ty Segall’s twisted mind. Ty’s self-confessed love of T.Rex (enjoy his album of T.Rex covers here) roars though on ‘Squealer 2’, glammed up guitars accompany the weird talk-box effects, the abnormal honey-dipped vocals a wicked smile amongst the dark insanity of the song; this smile is then extinguished as the song plummets into a schizophrenic jumble of weird electronics and chilling backing vocals. The scramble of ideas ending ‘Squealer 2’ is constant on ‘W.U.O.T.W.S’, an incomprehensible mess of brainwaves crammed into a song, perfectly encapsulating the surreal nature of the album. The album closer ‘Magazine’ sees a return to the marauding bassline prevalent throughout the first half of the album, while dissonance seethes in the distance, merging with random, ill-placed handclaps, before the guitar morphs into disarray as the final cliff-dive to the aberrant picture that is ‘Emotional Mugger’.
In summary, ‘Emotional Mugger’ is a complete and utter mess. Wonderful, yet a mess nonetheless. A gripping account of off-kilter sonic madness, ripping through the eardrums and infesting the brain like a glorious, deranged parasite. There are a few misfires on the album that may dim after a few listens, however, the madness of the record shines through due to Ty’s ingenious guitar playing. Yet another solid album of depravity from Mr. Segall.