Sound — 8
While the aging baby boomers have been yelling about how lazy the technology-swaddled millennial generation is in comparison to previous generations, the young Ty Segall was busy (really busy) making music. Starting out playing in small bands like Epsilon and Party Foul when he was still a teenager, it wouldn't be until 2008 that Segall would start working on music as a solo artist, and eventually turn into a phenomenon that converts his ideas into music as naturally and efficiently as plants convert CO2 to oxygen. At the release of his debut eponymous solo album in 2008, Segall would end up crafting a new album every year, amongst the plethora of other projects and collaborations he's worked in. Though being known as one of the integral players in the San Francisco garage rock scene, his previous solo album, "Sleeper," was a significant straying from Segall's rough rock sound into a delicate acoustic folk-oriented album, and while it was interesting to see Segall tackle a different music angle in his work, those that had known and revered Segall for wielding a grungy guitar sound with reckless abandon may have felt less than enthusiastic about the sleepy demeanor of "Sleeper."
While still following the annual album release schedule that 90% of musicians can't even keep up themselves, Segall's seventh album, "Manipulator," actually ended up taking the longest time to make. Consequently, "Manipulator" ends up being the most bountiful and refined album Segall has made, clocking in at fifty-six minutes; and with that extended amount of time, he makes the album a buffet-style spread of the varying rock influences that spiral through his head. With Segall's one goal of running the gamut of inspiration, "Manipulator" shows him traveling from the funky "Mister Main," "Feel" and "Who's Producing You?," to the punky "It's Over" and "Susie Thumb," to the singer-songwriter warmness of "Green Belly" and "Don't You Want To Know? (Sue)," then back to the tried-and-true garage rock of "Manipulator," "Connection Man," "The Faker," and the Black Sabbath-veering "The Crawler." More interestingly, however, is when Segall cobbles his numerous influences into multi-dimensional tracks - "Tall Man, Skinny Lady" starts out as a folk-rocky tune, then transforms into a psychedelic face-melter; "The Feels" starts out as another soft jam but then drops into Sabbath-like guitar distortion and a wailing & wavering solo; and the ending track "Stick Around" sounding like a clear homage to T. Rex's "Cosmic Dancer," but with Segall throwing in a nice dual guitar solo in there as well.
Lyrics — 7
Segall's mind goes a number of ways in the lyrics of "Manipulator." He gets sentimental in "The Feels," "Stick Around," "It's Over," and even turns his warm-hearted feelings into oddity in "The Singer." Segall ends up banking fully on the weirdness of psychedelic narratives with "Tall Man, Skinny Lady," "The Crawler" and "Mister Main," where the ambiguous nature of the lyrics' meaning is backseated by the lyrics' simple contribution to the groove of the song. But a theme that comes up a number of times in the album is a critical outlook on modernity: the line "I used your telephone to sneak into your home" in "Manipulator" alludes to the hot-button privacy breaching of phone-tapping; the line "It gives me no surprise/He's gonna make a movie on his entire life" in "Green Belly" snidely talking about people who are shamelessly ego-centric; "Susie Thumb" is about a girl the narrator describes as being obsessed with breaking into show-business, which directly moves into the narrator lamenting Susie's decision in "Don't You Want To Know? (Sue)"; and the simple chorus of "The Connection Man" has Segall nearly begging for the basic human need of connection and affection. Though this unfortunately isn't an all-encompassing concept, with the album musically being an appeal to "the good ol' days," this theme of post-modern criticism definitely complements the album as a whole.
Overall Impression — 8
As Segall continues to rigorously build his discography, his most recent releases show that he's not simply hammering the same nail over and over. The extra-large palette of colors that "Manipulator" wields not only displays the style that Segall became famous for, but it encapsulates a myriad of music influences that have built Segall as a musician, and opposed to the pinpointing of one different music influence like on "Sleeper," Segall strives to include as many different influences as he can on this album. Along with the plethora of styles it touts, "Manipulator" also shows Segall advancing as a musician, or rather, a frontman. From his vocals breaking out from the heavily-reverbed cage into and walking with more confidence, to his increasingly impressive guitarwork, Segall is growing from the garage rocker he began as into a 21st-century rock star that the next generation can look up to.