Call 1-800-281-2968, and you'll be subjected to an off-putting message from Ty Segall, grody sound effects and all ("I am itching to hear how I can fill the holes in your ego…do you need a daddy?"). Or, you could hit up emotionalmugger.com, where Segall, dressed as a doctor, stars in an infomercial describing emotional mugging, "a psychoanalytic subject-to-subject exchange formed as a response to our hyper-digital sexual landscape" (a play on modern day narcissism and relations, perhaps?). His label, Drag City, sent out announcements for the new record to publications in the form of overdubbed VHS tapes (old Blockbuster ones, amusingly enough) and a crumpled letter.
While all of this supplementary promotion for a record might seem somewhat unlike Segall, it really speaks to the twisted goofiness and "anything goes" attitude that permeates Emotional Mugger. The wonderfully weird has been turned way, way up on Segall's new LP, a highly character driven concept album featuring appearances by characters (The Squealer, Candy Sam, the Leopard Priestess and an Emotional Mugger) and reoccurring themes and melodies (think Brian Wilson's Smile). Everything is interchangeable; some characters squeal; one wants candy. There's a delirious universe being crafted here, full of needy, yearning folk each with an insatiable sweet tooth. It's odd, but deliciously so.
Still, it's undoubtedly a product of Ty Segall's masterful mind: Emotional Mugger doesn't stray from his established path of fuzz, catchy hooks and satiating riffs, but it's messier than his last two solo releases, 2014's clean-cut and calculated Manipulator and the acoustic, soul-baring Sleeper, in terms of production, returning to the lo-fi sound of his 2008 self-titled release — it's as if Segall took steel wool to the sounds he was creating, to obscure and distort it.
It's also his wackiest work to date, with bizarre notes and chords here and there, unexpected changes of pace, mid-song melody reconstructions, gooey and screechy vocals and plenty of effects: "Diversion" is 2016's version of the Segall classic "Girlfriend," a power-punch of fuzz that's unlike anything else on the record; "Squealer Two" is a real groover (and terribly fun); "Candy Sam" breaks off slowly into children's voices singing la-la-las; "Breakfast Eggs" is subtly sultry, and finds Segall testing out an array of voices; "W.U.O.T.W.S." is the album's "Revolution 9," a hodgepodge of repeated ideas from the album, car honks and electronic bleeps and bloops.
A new year means a new record for Segall, and he's keeping us on our toes with this one, reshaping his approach while retaining the sonic trademarks that we're accustomed to. There's nothing mild about Emotional Mugger; it has an overwhelming sense of madness, but it's addictive nonetheless. (Drag City)