Ty Segall – Freedom’s Goblin review

Secret Meeting score: 80

by Martin Ramsbottom

Following the passing of Mark E. Smith, the indomitable front man of The Fall, we are reminded of his outspoken distaste for imitation and young musicians sourcing influence from the reference point of their dad’s record collections. Ty Segall’s Freedom’s Goblin, released on Drag City, is an antidote to the worst forms of such imitation and a challenge to the current perspective in music journalism that guitar-led music is a dying art. Over an uncompromising 19 tracks, the Laguna Beach native delivers a classic rock homage interwoven with his distinct garage rock signature that will slake the thirst of sonic junkies in early 2018.

Ty’s anti-zeitgeist orientation to music in not feeling it necessary to produce radically different records on an lp-by-lp basis will be refreshing for newcomers and loyal returners alike and the true anchors on this record lie in the traditionally derivative tracks. Fanny Dog, Alta, She and My Lady’s on Fire cannot be separated from influences such as AC/DC, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Bowie, Bolan, et al. Fanny Dog sets the tone for beautiful irreverence in sheer rock ‘n’ roll wallowing. Written simply as a dedication to his dog, it is a riotous cacophony that was well debuted by Ty and the Freedom Band on Conan O’Brien in late 2017 and displays Charles Moothart’s domineering drum performance which is prevalent throughout the record. “Say you want to cry/But your tears are dry”, Ty croons over a softly strummed acoustic riff on My Lady’s on Fire, tapping into that emotional vein of 70’s-era folk-pop singer-songwriter which blooms into a crescendo of CSNY folk rock held together by Mikal Cronin’s virtuoso saxophone accompaniment. Alta, a song of the soil for historical native California, is one of the standout tracks from the 19. Ty booms, “Before you had a name/before the sailor’s came/I would fight to save you” as the Freedom Band blows out in full Crazy Horse fashion.

Yet Freedom’s Goblin cannot just be compartmentalised as a classic rock opus. Speaking to Stereogum, Ty said, “To be honest, for me as a songwriter, I feel like I’ve been stuck on the guitar for so long. That’s why I’m looking toward the piano and other avenues to write in… the guitar stuff is rooted in rock ‘n’ roll. Which is great, I’m obviously a huge fan of rock ‘n’ roll, but I want to move past rock ‘n’ roll.” It is these experimentations and curiosity that deliver the strength of the record. Take Despoiler of Cadaver as a starting point. A title that could easily be lifted from any death metal band’s back catalogue; it is actually a mid-tempo, deep-funk track. Ty’s vocal is croaked over a drum machine as he laconically layers guitar straight out of the Kevin Parker effects manual. There is hubris and high comedy too in his audacity to title a track The Last Waltz – very much a retired title in music – which he described to Stereogum as “…a working title that stuck”.  Rain is an inverted, dystopian Beatles vocal and melody that places Mikel Cronin’s saxophone front-and-centre while Meaning is a hardcore screech with vocal control ceded to Ty’s wife Denée, as she screams “You’re filled with meaning/you’re filled with shit!” an epigram to post-punk dichotomy. The record ends with And, Goodnight. An explosion of Weld-era Neil Young-size guitar-hero soloing that is pure comedic showmanship. You want guitar music? Here is 12 minutes of pure sonic slurry.

Freedom’s Goblin finds Ty at his most megalomaniac, his most eclectic, his most prolific. Working with Steve Albiniacross sessions and studios – some tracks were recorded in Memphis at Royal, some at Electrical in Chicago and some at Ty’s own studio – and forging a friendship beyond the purely professional comes across strongly on the record. The mixture of sessions and studios and the length of the album are not to its detriment; at no point does it feel clumsily stitched together. There’s also enough welcome additions for the Mac DeMarco-esque militant cadre of fans that follow Ty’s anarchic live cacophony. Yet there’s also a balance of evolution and interesting elements which will not alienate those paying the entrance fee to see Ty for the first time or the fifth. Freedom’s Goblin may not have the listener discussing the nuanced genius behind the art of the record among peers. But it is an entertaining and well crafted 75 minutes that even your dad may get the turntable out for.