Ty Segall has managed to rattle off over a dozen albums of eccentric garage rock in just six years. But ‘Manipulator’, his latest, feels like the moment the 27-year-old Californian has been building towards all along. Whereas the gentle, stripped-down psychedelia of last year’s ‘Sleeper’ captured Segall at his most intimate, ‘Manipulator’ neatly assimilates the lessons learned from each of Segall’s previous releases.
Also, the breadth of influences across those albums – from Bo Diddley and T Rex to Hawkwind and The Who – is utilised here with a new level of expertise. ‘The Clock’, for example, unfolds like a clever homage to Arthur Lee’s Love, while the percussive breakdown in ‘Feel’ turns the song into an unapologetic nod to Black Sabbath’s ‘Supernaut’ (from ‘Vol 4’, the logo from which is tattooed on Segall’s arm).
But Segall has bolstered his sound in other ways too. You can hear it in the funky drumming and beefy basslines, the organ pumping through the title song and in the strings soaring over ‘The Singer’. These elements feed into arrangements that feel more carefully considered, allowing lightning-quick guitar lines to pulsate through the album without becoming muddled, sloppy or overblown.
Segall’s songs are filled with stalkers, psychos and weirdos – shady oddballs with dysfunctional brains and exploding heads. While an element of the unsavoury is hinted at in the song titles here (‘The Faker’, ‘The Connection Man’, ‘The Crawler’) they share little thematically aside from pithy strands of dark imagery (“Cheap love, I’m wrapped in milk/Drug rug that’s smooth as silk”, on ‘Manipulator’) or fuzzed-up moments of fatal attraction (“And when I look into your eyes/I realise/You’re the same as me/You’ll never be free”, he sings on ‘The Feels’).
‘Manipulator’ may boast fewer standout moments than previous albums, but it’s a refreshingly clear, confident and cohesive set of songs. Despite being Segall’s longest, packing 17 tracks into just under an hour, it’s also his most focused. It stomps its way through a blistering production that breathes new life into long-worn power chords.