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Ty Segall
Manipulator Joe Banks , August 26th, 2014 11:26

With a dizzying output of solo and collaborative releases since 2008, garage rock wunderkind Ty Segall appears to be labouring under the curse of profligacy, his every waking hour seemingly given over to recording the sounds in his head. And while artists such as Segall inspire a certain type of superfan to collect everything they issue, it's just as easy for the casual listener to not know where to start.

OK, so Manipulator is a very good place to start. It might be 17 tracks long, but it feels focused, thoughtfully-arranged and well-produced, and most importantly, features an array of cracking tunes. Yes, nothing here is breaking new ground sonically, but it repeatedly produces a rush of rock & roll adrenaline, and sometimes, that's all you need. It doesn't feel like we're just listening to a pastiche of the past either – there are influences galore, but the way that Segall uses these components still sounds fresh. Jack White and Beck are obvious precursors (though the distracting self-consciousness of these two artists hasn't kicked in yet), but it's Tame Impala's Kevin Parker and Uncle Acid's Kevin Starrs who are Segall's most relevant fellow travellers, particularly as Manipulator sees the fuzz attack of earlier releases stripped away to reveal glam, hard rock and cosmic vibes increasingly dominant.

The album opens with the title track, its cheesy organ riff and garage pop sunniness being – as it turns out – a backward glance to the Nuggets-era inspiration that the rest of the album leaves behind, its focus being more on the zone of blues/psych disruption occurring in the late 60s/early 70s that would birth both heavy metal and glam rock. So on the one hand, you get the dirty scuzz propulsion of 'It's Over' and the shuffling cosmic boogie of 'Feel'; on the other, there's the incisive semi-acoustic riff and louche delivery of 'Tall Man Skinny Lady', all very Hunky Dory, and the Bolan-esque, 50s-referencing ballad of 'The Singer', complete with lachrymose strings. In fact, there's a distinctly English feel to much of Manipulator, as though it were a collection of lost singles from the archives of Vertigo or RAK.   

Other highlights include the bouncy satanic glam of 'The Faker', a sure-fire hit single in an alternative version of 1972; the funky, west coast groove and lilting falsetto harmonies of 'Mister Main'; and the crunchy guitars and tortured solo of doomy love song 'The Feels'. But for me, the tracks that particularly (and predictably) hit home are the ones where Segall really lets loose with the heaviness: the mean, threatening swagger of 'The Connection Man' is a brilliant mash-up of The Stooges and Add N to X, while 'The Crawler' features a great switchback riff that delivers the kind of visceral rock action excitement it's impossible to fake.

Ultimately, this is an astonishingly consistent album, particularly given Segall's work rate. Every track feels like it's been given the necessary love and attention, while no song outstays its welcome. As such, Manipulator could mark the point at which Segall definitively transitions from outsider indie auteur to mainstream rock acceptance.

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