Glam and garage collide on Ty Segall's Manipulator
Fuck yes. Thank you Ty Segall. Thank you for an album that drops enough glam garage rock you’ll think Marc Bolan has risen again. There’s fat fuzz, squalling guitar solos, funky beats, and percussion break downs. But it’s the modern sensibilities, the roughness and the untamed punk in him that sees Segall drag the kitsch into the 21st century by its glittery collar.
Segall smashed out four albums in 14 months through 2011 and into 2013 (Goodbye Bread, Twins, Slaughterhouse, and Sleeper), each building on the last in terms of production. He spent 14 months working on Manipulator alone, and the bombast the album wears like a feather boa proves it was time well spent. There’s string section flourishes that would never have fit let alone happened on anything he’s released prior.
Across the 17 songs, all four of those previous albums bubble to the surface, whether it’s the acoustic bashing of Sleeper or the wig-out solos of Slaughterhouse. It’s kind of like Segall’s magnum opus to date (he has 68 individual releases according to his Wikipedia page, so there’s bound to be another magnum opus crop up soon enough, I’m sure).
“Feel” is his lead single, and for obvious reasons. It’s a groovy, rollicking rock song, replete with thick guitar, those aforementioned solos and percussion breakdowns, and falsetto that a castrati would nod in approval of. It’s easy to fall into the head banging with the recording, but this video of Segall playing it on Conan doesn’t hurt. Then there’s the dopey/fun “Tall Man Skinny Lady”, which Segall pronounces “La-ee-dyuh”. But it’s not some Vedder impersonation; it’s the pinched, self-conscious and kind of androgynous delivery of a glam rock front man à la Bolan or even David Johansen. It’s just great.
More than anything, though, this record is fun. The last song is “Stick Around”, in which Segall sings “Even though / we’ve got to go / you know we wanna / stick around”, before a dual violin and electric guitar riff weedle away together. It’s obvious he had a ball making it, splashing money around to really bring some dreams to life, (let’s just say the 8-track days are gone) and that fun exudes through the speakers in waterfalls.
What makes Segall and Manipulator so great is the drawing of the music through history. Garage rock has been around basically in the form it’s in now since the 60s, but what makes it stick around is its malleability. As Segall has shown with his band Fuzz, it lends itself to metal and hard rock, and as he demonstrates here, it’s a sultry bedfellow of glam and psychedelic rock. It’s this bending and morphing of the raw guitar/bass/drums that gives Segall’s music it’s edge over the quintillion other literal garage bands. And he does it amazingly well on Manipulator.
The album’s title could be him, pulling and enticing the music through the various genres it ticks off along it’s forward march through the 60s, 70s and on into the 00s. He’s the silver-lipped piper of guitar music, and he’s made a killer record to boot. So here’s to another 14 months before he releases his next magnum opus. Take some time to breathe, Ty.