Ty Segall has become a name synonymous with relentless productivity thanks largely to the fact that in addition to his now seven solo records, he has released 17 other albums under different guises since he began this unparalleled streak in 2008. The past couple years in particular have seen him hyperactively hop between styles from the sludgy Stooges-like mayhem of Slaughterhouse, to the fuzzy psychedelia of Twins and finally the acoustic delicacy of Sleeper. So quite simply it was anyone’s guess what Manipulator – a record Segall has spoken on spending significantly more time on than any other before – would sound like and quite simply it comes across as one of Segall’s most complete works yet.
The man quite clearly takes a noticeable influence from the Glam-rock of the early 70s – and that’s mirrored in more than the silver lipstick he donned for his storming performance of highlight ‘Feel’ on Conan a couple weeks ago. The music of Bowie and Bolan is all over Manipulator’s DNA, so much so that most of the record sounds lifted directly from the age of glitter from the meaty acoustic guitars to the muddy drums – look no further than the stomping groove and whispered T. Rex vocals of ‘Tall Man Skinny Lady’, the ‘Jean Genie’ rundown of ‘The Faker’ or the chunky power chords of ‘Susie Thumb’. The opening title-track finds Segall adopting a distinctly British inflection over a descending organ sequence and fantastic layered lead guitars which are another thing on full display across the album – the guy can shred. Segall’s often Lennon-like voice is largely dropped for a preference of falsetto on many of the tracks and actually pulls it off pretty convincingly in places such as the majestic chorus of ‘The Singer’ which is carried by a gorgeous string section as is ‘The Clock’s memorable chorus melody.
However Manipulator could’ve easily been trimmed down as it dips towards its end, like one would expect for most albums of 17 songs. Tracks such as ‘Green Belly’ and ‘The Crawler’ offer little to grip onto – at least in comparison to their sister songs – and don’t progress the sound of the record beyond the garage-rock and acoustic pop we’ve already been fed. Still, it’s only a minor drop which refuses to lose Segall’s momentum on an album where he’s got the stuff in droves. Borrowing heavily from the past, he commendably manages to keep things interesting most of the way on an album that feels like a sure step up for this rambunctious rocker.