Review Summary: Ask your bossman for a raise.
No review of a Ty Segall record ever feels complete without some
mention of the American singer-songwriter’s legendary profligacy, but Manipulator
, which was written and composed over a period of fourteen months (an eternity by Ty Segall standards), begs to be unpacked in a different manner altogether. "I feel like I’ve done the other kind of record plenty of times,” explained the California native in a recent interview with Stereogum. “But this time…I still threw a bunch of shit at the wall, but then I’d take notice of what seemed to be working, and then I’d throw some more shit at a different wall. I guess you could say I worked with several different walls this time, as opposed to doing that once and then just kind of calling it done,” he added.
The extended gestation period granted to Manipulator
has resulted in an album that is noticeably less serrated than any of Segall’s previous solo efforts. There is the odd exception, of course – “Feel”, for instance, attempts to invoke the zeitgeist of Fuzz’s “HazeMaze” and Soundgarden’s “Spoonman” at every possible opportunity – but generally speaking there's nothing particularly aggressive about the entirety of Manipulator
’s narrative arch. "The Faker” is a jangly and upbeat number that lands somewhere between the realms of garage rock and psychedelic folk, while “Mister Main” in turn sees Segall fusing an insistent groove with a vocal performance that would not have seemed entirely out of place on last year’s Atoms for Peace record. Elsewhere, shorter pieces like “Green Belly”, “The Crawler”, or “Connection Men” initially present themselves as mere sketches but eventually end up proving to be carefully-weighted bursts of sonic creativity. Several well-loved Ty Segall touchstones also make landfall on Manipulator
, like that scuzzy guitar tone – which has become a bit of a calling card for the American singer-songwriter at this point – and his uncanny ability to produce a decidedly John Lennon-esque quaver, which is showcased to great effect on the red-eyed psych track “The Singer”.
All else made equal, if Manipulator
is Ty Segall’s attempt at seeing what happens when he makes records with the handbrake on, the results are emphatically emboldening. Not only does Segall's seventh solo effort compare very favorably to his regular no-holds-barred output, but it also manages to feel like the other side of the same coin – which is saying something.