In an interview dating back to the 2011 release of his album Goodbye Bread, Ty Segall had stated he had plans for a heavier-sounding record that would throw people off. Although he has temporarily shelved influences like Sabbath and Hawkind he had listed, he has kept his promise with Manipulator in delivering generous distortion and the idiosyncratic, quirky sound that has become the defining characteristic of his music. A particularly singular record, Manipulator continues to showcase Segall’s eclectic rock taste, drawing its sound from psychedelia, glam, punk, noise and most of all, garage rock.
The lengthy release begins with a deceitful title-track which, with its simplistic pop structure wrapped around an eccentric psychedelic hue, starkly differs from what follows, save for its fuzzy guitar leads. As it segues into “Tall Man, Skinny Lady,” a more garage-oriented sound begins to pour through, but the jumpy, kooky energy remains audible, establishing itself as the album’s most distinctive feature. For the majority of its length, Manipulator is a very accessible and immediate record, whose indulgent pop vibe is what is most effective at achieving the exact opposite result, even more than the spinning showreel of underground rock it contains. Grunge is heard on “The Singer,” hard rock and glam on “The Faker,” and acoustic guitar and fuzzy leads are combined on tracks such as “The Hand” and “Stick Around,” adding an element of classic rock with heavy shades of post-grunge. As if it wasn’t enough, complete oddballs are thrown at the listener with the Sonic Youth-meets-The Twilight Zone freakout on “The Connection” and the smooth and groovy “Mister Main.” Yet, despite the frenetic change-ups, the simple and immediate energy of the record remains constant throughout.
Challenging the pattern of underground musicians forgoing quality for edginess, Mr. Segall has made being weird and quirky into an art. Manipulator is the masterpiece of an artist doing whatever the hell he wants without thinking what people think, and doing it majestically.