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Rock ‘n’ roll has long been considered the devil’s work, but many a rock band has been tamed by the placating sound of the cashier kerching. It’s almost at the point where Satan himself — and rock devotees — need a saviour. That’s precisely where Ty Segall, a 26-year-old LA-via-the-Bay-Area rocker with a diabolical ear for noise in music, steps in.
Manipulator is Segall’s seventh solo album in seven years. He churns them out like clockwork, each offering something different. He also releases even more records under different aliases, each with a separate identity. Ty Segall Band is a droning jam collective, his collaboration with White Fence, Hair, is a perfect pastiche of 60s neo-psych, Fuzz is space rock that Hawkwind would approve of.
Lucky for Ty, the devil, and fans of nasty guitars, Manipulator proves the well is yet to run dry. Tall Man Skinny Lady‘s dusty drum section teases a starved guitar, which cuts and wails for attention with a classic rock fuzz. The Singer follows with gentle acoustic plucking punctuated by pure electricity on the four, before the chorus floats upwards like a Tame Impala track: “si-i-ing / si-i-ing / louder / louder“.
It’s Over aligns proto-punk with glam rock to create a maddening guitar stomp. Feel feels similar, adding a Zeppelin-esque brutality that descends into a feedback fold. It’s just a shame that things only truly gel in the album’s bookends.
At 17 tracks across a double LP, the album may be overly long. A slump around the middle might have been inevitable. There’s nothing dull about it, but Ty and his idle hands make manic play with a guitar and its destructive feedback. The romp isn’t there on Mister Main, Green Belly‘s rhythm and blues feels slightly flaccid. On The Hand, Segall abandons a Neil Young facsimile for a fresh sea of guitar solos.
Manipulator is pulled back from over indulgence once The Crawler makes its entrance, its fuzztone and energy reminiscent of Bay Area compatriots Thee Oh Sees. This is music to kick bins off the curb to spill on the street. The Feels is classic Ty Segall, like a more fully realised My Head Explodes.
Album closer Stick Around embodies that self-reflexive rock ethos of music as salvation: “And although / we have to go / you know we want to stick around“. There’s pangs of Sgt Peppers, or the end of Abbey Road, but any cutesiness is undercut with bared fang duelling guitar solos.
There’s a lot to love on Manipulator, and it’s no doubt Segall’s most ambitious effort yet. It might be a little flabby in places, but you can’t doubt the craftsmanship. And if a few patchy moments are the sacrifice for a career as prolific and varied as his, then there’s no use asking him to sell his soul.