Few post-millennial musicians, let alone post-millennial rock musicians, have been as prolific as California garage rock hero, Ty Segall. After releasing his self titled debut as a solo artist in 2008, Segall has released an album (or two or three albums) nearly every single year; which is to say nothing of the numerous collaborations and side projects that he has also been involved with over the same time period. With such a voluminous output in so short a time, it would be easy to assume that Ty Segall is delivering quantity as opposed to quality. The truth, however, is that, Segall’s material has been consistently good and even on occasion pretty fucking great. But with “Freedom’s Goblin,” released back in January of this year, Ty Segall has moved from “pretty fucking great” into the realm of “damn fucking classic.” Over at NPR, author Jason Heller declared Segall “a scholar of rock” and “Freedom’s Goblin” as “his PhD thesis.” The analogy is spot on. Over the course of nineteen genre spanning tracks, Segall backed by his Freedom Band takes the listener on a tour of nearly seven decades of rock music’s many faces.
When the needle drops on side 1 a burst of guitars and horns pay tribute to Segall’s pet “Fanny Dog,” who “knows what her name is,” and “just how to come…” While singing about one’s dog could come off as a little cutesy for amp shredding garage rock, the music has enough vigor to keep the song light years away from cheesy.
“Rain” which starts as a piano led moper, with Segall singing, “I’m sick of the sunshine,” turns into what vaguely sounds like a Sicilian funeral march. The addition of horns to many of these songs gives Segall’s music an extra layer that we didn’t even know was missing. The horns play a prominent role on several of the album’s songs, giving a “Fun House” era Stooges chaos to “Talkin 3” or the sax blowing funk of “The Main Pretender.”
The band creates punk funk fusion with a cover of Hot Chocolate’s 1978 disco hit “Every 1’s A Winner.” Funk is found elsewhere on the LP in the liquid bass bump of “Despoiler of Cadaver,” which sounds like something that would emerge in the middle of a twenty minute live Phish jam. (A comparison that is meant as a compliment to illustrate the tune’s dark but weirdly infectious groove.)
“Shoot You Up’s,” fuzz guitar riff sounds simultaneously stoned and invigorated as it lazily leads the way to a falsetto sang conclusion and ripping guitar solo. “Shoot You Up,” is great hard rock but it is blown away by what emerges a few tracks later in the form of “She.” “She” is a lyrically slight, six and half minute exhilarating heavy metal guitar monster of a jam. It begins with a one guitar chug, before being joined by the bass and drums. A second guitar enters, and then the whole band is playing a riff that comes straight out of the playbook of Black Sabbath’s “Riff Lord,” Tony Iommi. After a short verse shouting, “Sheee! Sheee! She said, ‘I was a bad boy,” a sword fight of electric guitar and piano solos rip a hole in the space-time continuum. On the other side we can peer an alternate reality where Ritchie Blackmore and John Lord formed a less technically inclined garage punk version of Deep Purple. When the solos abate and hole closes, the song continues to grow in intensity as Segall shreds his vocal chords in a repeated shout of “Sheee!” It is a moment of pure rock animal-ism and it is goddamned beautiful.
The hold nothing back fury displayed on “She” combined with the musical eclecticism of the album as a whole makes “Freedom’s Goblin” a modern classic. Whether it’s summoning the spirit of George Harrison on the country rock of “Cry, Cry, Cry,” the riot grrl shout of “Meaning” (featuring vocals from Ty’s wife Denèe), the garage pop of “5 Ft. Tall,” or the Neil Young & Crazy Horse inspired guitar jam of “And, Goodnight;” Segall and company make genre bending sound astonishingly effortless.
“Freedom’s Goblin” shows that those who declare that rock music is dead, aren’t looking and more importantly, aren’t listening. Ty Segall and the Freedom band have created an album of music that could reanimate the corpses of thousand dead rock stars and still have swagger to spare. Essential tracks: “Fanny Dog,” “Rain,” “Every 1’s A Winner,” “Cry, Cry, Cry,” “The Main Pretender,” “Shoot You Up”, “5 Ft. Tall,” and fucking “She.”