Album Review: Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin
The release of Freedom’s Goblin marks the third consecutive January in which Ty Segall has released a new studio album. He has long been compared to The Beatles in terms of his melodies and simplistic lyrics, and his yearly album releases are another way in which he can be comfortably compared to the Fab Four. However, whereas The Beatles gave up touring midway through their career to focus on writing and recording, Segall still tours pretty much non-stop, making you wonder when and how he has the time to write new songs, get in the studio to record them and then go through the rigmarole of releasing the damn things – but year after year, he does it. It seems an inevitability that some of his releases are going to be less rewarding than others, and that brings us to Freedom’s Goblin, a 19 track, 72 minute opus that he and his band somehow managed to squeeze out somewhere along their travels. It contains some of his most experimental songs, some of his most immediately lovable and some of his most utterly forgettable. For all intents and purposes, it seems Freedom’s Goblin is Segall’s White Album.
Segall has made long albums before, most notably 2014’s Manipulator, but that comprised only 17 tracks, clocked in at 54 minutes, and, most crucially, seemed to have a musical uniformity in that the songs were pretty much all 2-3 minute garage-pop burners. The 19 tracks across Freedom’s Goblin flit around between different styles, almost like different versions of Ty stepped into the studio at different times in different mind sets, and in the end these different versions couldn’t agree on cutting anything, and ended up sticking it all in there. Again we are reminded of The White Album.
Freedom’s Goblin starts auspiciously enough with ‘Fanny Dog’, a blast of a song full of the serotonin brought on by seeing your favourite friend – it is, after all, written in dedication to Segall’s canine companion. Second track ‘Rain’ is one of the most ambitious songs in Segall’s catalogue, a song that starts intimate and swoops into harmonising grandiosity in a moment’s notice, full of the kind of nonsense lyrics that turn to epic paeans in Ty’s rock’n’roll cadence. Third up is their bizarre and crunchy cover of Hot Chocolate’s 1978 radio classic ‘Every 1’s A Winner’; it’s undoubtedly enjoyable, but with an obvious superfluity of tracks already on the album you wonder if it might have been better served as a B-side or saved for live performances. Within these three opening tracks you get the picture of the jumble that is the 19 tracks of Freedom’s Goblin: some simply great fun, some demonstrating true ambition, and some tracks that could easily have been cut.
Freedom’s Goblin’s high points are truly some of the highest in Segall’s sprawling discography, although the majority of them were released as singles months prior to the album. ‘My Lady’s On Fire’ (released in November) is a dextrously bluesy number that hopscotches around that central image, Segall and his band’s natural swagger showing off his pride in his partner, capped off with a full on scronk-sax solo from Mikal Cronin. Following track ‘Alta’ (first released as far back as September) starts from stately organ before quickly exploding into a full-on rock behemoth, replete with full-blooded death-or-glory lyricism from Segall as he rides atop the writhing muscularity of his band. Segall almost always finds time to put at least one sweet acoustic song in, and here we have ‘Cry Cry Cry’, a classic minor-key break up lament that does absolutely nothing original, but Segall still manages to eke out a ton of genuine empathy with his natural knack for archetypal rock melodies and lyrics. ‘She’ is a six-minute scorcher featuring plenty of chugging guitars, stop-start dynamics and Segall’s banshee-like howl of the titular word making it impossible not to feel enlivened; it could have easily been a perfect album capper, but here it sits at track 13, giving the listener a needed injection of energy to push on through the final stretch. ‘The Main Pretender’ (also from November) sees Segall in an unusually harsh mood lyrically, as he castigates someone for their arrogance at their minor success, and combined with a vicious-edged composition from his band and yet another squealing Cronin sax solo, the punches certainly land. The album ends with ‘And Goodnight’ – a more Beatles-y final song title there couldn’t be – although the ebbing and flowing echoed guitar is perhaps more reminiscent of Pink Floyd, especially as the song stretches to 12 minutes.
The rest of the album is easily split between the enjoyable-but-nothing-spectacular tracks and those whose inclusion is questionable. Long-time fans will undoubtedly get kicks out of songs like ‘Despoiler of Cadaver’ and ‘Shoot You Up’, which are kind of like Booker T and MG’s on steroids, while others like ‘When Mommy Kills You’ and ‘5 Ft Tall’ are Ty in his comfort zone, writing ridiculously catchy and lightweight garage pop.
The tracks mentioned so far are more than enough to have made up another very-solid-bordering-on-great Ty Segall album, but there are many more than just those. There are some songs that are inoffensive but are clear filler (‘Meaning’, ‘You Say All The Nice Things’), but there are also a couple of worse offenders. Songs like ‘The Last Waltz’, a very rough-and-tumble whirligig 2 minutes, and ‘Talkin 3’, a third version of a song that was on both Ty Segall and Fried Shallots in 2017 – to name just a couple - could easily have been cut and saved for the inevitable Outtakes and Rarities Collection that will pop up eventually.
Despite the obvious trimming that could be done around the belly, Freedom’s Goblin is still a worthwhile beast to take on. In fact, in today’s world of playlist creating, it’s easy to cut, paste, and rearrange albums into your own preference, and it seems like this album is an ideal candidate for such treatment. However people decide to digest and dissect Freedom’s Goblin, there are tracks on here that will undoubtedly go down in the pantheon of great Ty Segall songs and be taken out on stage to thrill and delight. The rest can be quickly and easily enjoyed, then entirely forgotten about – which doesn’t really matter, since we’re probably only a year or so away from yet another Ty Segall album.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 26th January 2018.