Mysterious footsteps, jingling keys, cars driving on a distant road—these are the first sounds heard on Ty Segall’s latest record, Emotional Mugger. The album dropped in January of 2016, kicking off the year in music in the most appropriate fashion possible.
At this point, Segall has already been well established as a psych rock legend. With countless releases and collaborations, including eight jaw-dropping studio albums, he never fails to outdo himself. Emotional Mugger is no exception to this standard—when listened to in its entirety, it sends chills down the spine. Via haunting lyrics and eerie melodies, the record succeeds in highlighting everything corrupt about the mechanisms of American society.
Pointing out the modern day American’s warped priorities that ultimately stem from unjust power structures, Segall creeps up on the consumerist individual and strikes heavily. For a surprising (yet unsurprising) amount of people in today’s world, greed overpowers empathy—the insatiable hunger for money and power is often pursued in place of the fight for human life, safety, identity, and overall well-being. Segall acknowledges this, and shoves this sickening truth in the face of the public. “American nightmare, guilty generation, fingers on the pulse of their parents’ alienation. From the history, histories of western civilization. The gift of affluent life was wasted on the fickle wife, who slept in Californian hills and gave herself the sleeping pills, and waits for dollar bills. The papers say we’re going to hell,” croons Segall in “Californian Hills.” Emotional Mugger accurately paints the portrait of the American Dream as the American Nightmare, bringing to light the issue of ethics, or lack thereof, as it exists within our society.
Ty Segall’s ingenuity and innovation continue to add an invaluable voice to those in his genre. For quite some time, his unforgettable guitar riffs, drastic pitch changes, and influential, psychedelic style have aided in motivating me to continue creating art and breathing in more deeply the world around me. Emotional Mugger is a rebellion against the societal systems that a significant amount of my anxieties as a queer individual are catalyzed by. Although Segall is not a queer icon himself, the music on this record reflects some of my emotions concerning the prejudice and bigotry that my loved ones and I am threatened by in America. It is a relief to be reminded that one of my favorite artists recognizes the frightening realities that exist within our civilization, and stands with me in the fight for the marginalized. Outside of the record, Segall has proved himself an advocate for issues that truly matter, auctioning off test presses of his old albums for causes like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Planned Parenthood, and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as taking to Twitter to express his grievances after the nauseating outcome of the 2016 election.
By depicting both horror and pleasure within uncanny metaphors in addition to a plastic baby-faced alter ego named “Sloppo,” Segall captures the dramatic range of emotion that many humans, myself included, experienced during this year. Emotional Mugger even touches on the impact of the media on the individual. “You don’t need a reason, it’s all in the magazine,” sings Segall in “The Magazine;” this commentary about the effect of the media in shaping public perception in America is notable. I have found, especially this year, that a considerable amount of the population fails to consider bias and sensationalism when consuming media. The public’s consideration of credibility in the media falls short far too often, allowing exploitative journalism to permeate one’s thoughts, which helps to form within the individual whatever opinion the dishonorable organization or journalist desires.
An honest, colorful analysis of modern society is brought to the table in Emotional Mugger. The listener climbs a creaky, twisted staircase as the album continues to progress, touching on concepts like instant gratification and the American’s constant desire for more. An otherworldly feeling is present throughout a record that evaluates the reality of the world in which we live—an art that Segall has truly perfected. Emotional Mugger reminds the inhabitants of the world to take a good, hard look in the mirror, and consider their priorities in order to improve upon the current condition of the world.