If Ty Segall’s self-titled 2017 album was a masterfully sequenced, spoiler-free movie trailer abstracting his decade of dizzying garage-rock prolificacy, ‘Freedom’s Goblin’ is the Mad Max blockbuster summer release, a powerful statement of scattered, tuneful intent from one of guitar rock’s greatest living performers.
Clocking in at one hour and fifteen minutes long, ‘Freedom’s Goblin’ is ambitious but rarely indulgent, an undeniable feat, particularly for such kaleidoscopic scope. Braced with intoxicating horn sections, a newfound affinity for pop finesse, predictably visceral guitar-play and backed by his all-talented comrades – The Freedom Band, including long-time collaborator Mikal Cronin – Segall has delivered his most unblemished record yet.
For an artist who has released over 20 albums cumulatively, whether its Ty Segall LPs or the other many side-projects he’s been a part of, his output is seemingly limitless – quantity-wise but also in terms of quality. In conversations about his musicianship, succumbing to using adjectives like prolific verges the grossly prosaic, even tiresome (although the presumably insomniac Segall might have differing interpretations of tired), yet it feels forever etched in his creative identity.
Born out of the LA garage scene, along with the likes of The Oh Sees, Segall has always been a keen student of discordant, batter-ramming DIY garage rock. On previous albums, like ‘Manipulator’, ear-catching melodies are discernible but are oft clouded with systematic and ear-reckoning fuzz. Feel, for example, a ‘Manipulator’ highlight, has a shining, totemic chorus.
It’s only on ‘Freedom’s Goblin’, however, that he unrepentently clasps to this keenly-developed melodic adroitness and embraces it wholeheartedly. His voice shines through effervescently and boldly. That being said, Segall’s vociferous noise affinities are far from irredeemable.
Back-to-back sound and mood variations make for an organised riot, extending from sensible rock balladry to outright anarchy. Indeed, the first seven tracks snapshot this synthesis most impressively. A towering, garage-specked ode to his dog Fanny kicks things off before segueing into the Thom Yorkian piano-led Rain, where he sings in the opening lines: “I’m sick of the sunshine/I wish I could make it blue”.
A steely, unceremoniously infectious cover of Hot Chocolate’s 1978 disco-hit Every1’s a Winner follows, before the seedy, distorted glam-funk of Despoiler of Cadaver takes over, a patch of sonic experimentation propulsed by a gooey bassline, Segall is on a shape-shifting roll.
This contortion continues. Prison, a one minute-long sax-laden instrumental transitions into the fantastically manic free-jazz-punk of Talkin 3. The Main Pretender carries the somersaulting, squealing saxophone forward, which seems to be almost chasing the thrashing electric guitar-play. Without pause, this is a rock-pinball excursion of consummate breadth. Track-by-track, you encounter hit-by-ballad, riff-by-hook; each a 20th century rock hit in their own right.
Intermittently, there’s moments of genius. My Lady’s on Fire is a glorious, buttery spin on classic soul where Segall utilises a lucid lead-saxophone to classic-rock perfection. Coated in references to an untouched utopia, long before civilisation and interruption (likely a pristine, hilly California), Alta is awash in mountainous riffs, icy and formidable. He sings tenderly: “Before you had a name/Before the sailors came/I would fight to save you/I would give my life”. At other junctures, there’s moments of singular frenzy, of deranged zeal. She – a feverous, 6-minute metal-blitzkrieg – is parasailed by Segall’s titanic electric guitar-solo, with dashes of idiosyncratic lo-fi garage-fuzz splashed atop.
Throughout his career, his sound has bordered on the deranged but Segall is a romanticist at heart, a sensitively tuned melancholic. He even hands vocal duties to his wife Denee on Meaning, a feedback-shrieking-cum-riot grrrl ruckus. She sings “I see judgement in your eyes/And what you say you know/I say…” before screaming “NO!”.
Segall is in star-gazing awe of Denee, he’s troubled, full of guilt, thinking that he’s undeserving of her purity. On the hook of the guitar-twanging You Say All The Nice Things, he sings gingerly “Do you really want to be, be with me/And do you want me to stay with you?”. Run-of-the-mill garage number Shoot You Up is the double-album’s only candidate for clipping, other than this, ‘Freedom’s Goblin’ is an excess of riches.
Where does Ty Segall go from here? How does he go from here? Only King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard seem positioned to out-sprint him, but Segall’s pre-eminence is indebted not only to his sprint-game, but also to marathon-running, to paragliding, to cliff-diving. He is ‘Freedom’s Goblin’.