The charms of this prolific lo-fi San Francisco garage rocker and his "wall of fuzz" largely eluded this reviewer until he released the acoustic album "Sleeper" which literally camped in the CD. Part of the problem is the scale of Segall's musical abundance and prolific output which is off putting in terms of keeping up with his musical twists and turns. The new double album could add to that trepidation for those seeking an opening into the career of one of the most intriguing American musicians since Beck and Jack White pitched their tents in the studio. This would be a shame since "Manipulator" is effectively a record that crystallises all the best elements of previous releases and pitches Ty Segall into a bid for significant mainstream recognition.
The vibe of this record tends to meld artists like Blue Cheer,The Stooges and Strokes but the true foundations lie in a debt to Hunky Dory era David Bowie and a large slab of Suede. It is Ty Segall of course so once all these influences are put the through the mixer it comes own with his own distinctive sound. Cheek out the huge classic rock of "Feel" with an almost Black Sabbath like bass line, punctuated with nasty guitar riff and yes folks, THE RETURN OF THE DRUM SOLO! Granted its not some 10 minute kit bashing exercise so beloved of 70s rock behemoths yet its in the mix and makes the song all the more brilliant. Other songs like "Tall Man, Skinny Lady" are pop alchemy with that sort of Hunky Dory driving acoustic guitar which weaves around a great swirling track. This is even more pronounced on the superb "The Clock" which does hark back to "Andy Wharhol". Songs like "Green Belly" are more straightforward and demonstrates that Segall can pen a really commercial tune when he sets his mind to it. Other mentions in dispatches should go to the funky "Mister Main" jam packed with lilting falsetto harmonies, whilst the late Marc Bolan would have been proud to hear the pulsating glam rock of "The Faker". Segall also does not forget his core audience and good old scuzzy fuzz rock of "The Crawler" with its 1970s ambience will please greatly.
This is a sprawling double album and this could act as deterrent to those new to Segall's music looking for a punchy introduction. You should fear not as "Manipulator is a veritable jukebox of delights and wherever you drop the needle a great listen is almost guaranteed. Uncut has rightly argued that the album represents a sort of Ty Segall's "Greatest Hits" and for those that say that guitar rock is dead listen to "The Feels" at the end of this album and go to church on Sunday to seek forgiveness.
Review by Red on Black