Album Review: Ty Segall - Freedom's Goblin

With the advent of CDs and digital downloads, the significance of making a double album has diminished dramatically. Nowadays, artists can flippantly string together 90-minute projects and it’s no big deal. In fact, the reaction to an album that long is frequently an exhausted groan. Whilst there’s always been the risk of a double album running out of steam, it’s so easy to make one these days that artists regularly stretch out 40-minutes of content for the sake of it. Prolific American garage rocker Ty Segall is changing that. At 75 minutes, his latest album Freedom’s Goblin shares a similar running time with classic double albums such as the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Electric Ladyland and Can’s Tago Mago. It’s also an album of incredible diversity and superb musicianship that justifies its length better than many albums shorter than it.

Freedom’s Goblin is ludicrously eclectic. It opens with Fanny Dog, an explosive, glam rock tribute to Segall’s pooch. Tracks like The Main Pretender expand on this direction with its tight sax riff and delightfully distorted guitar solo, whilst Alta indulges in the genre’s dramatic side with bombastic horns and Segall promising “I will fight to save you!” An absolutely killer cover of Hot Chocolate’s Every 1’s a Winner brings out Segall’s funky side, which he maintains on the groovy dance-rock tune Despoiler of Cadaver. Shoot You Up, 5 Ft. Tall and When Mommy Kills You are visceral bursts of vintage Segall garage rock, in contrast to the folk leanings of You Say All the Nice Things and I’m Free that ensure a varied tone. Meanwhile, Rain, My Lady’s on Fire and Cry Cry Cry tackle impeccable McCartney-esque melodies with hints of glam, soft and country rock respectively.

It’s only February and I’m already certain this album is going to be one of my favourites of the year.
– Nathan Brooks

Elsewhere, Freedom’s Goblin exhibits a more experimental flair. The Last Waltz, as the title suggests, is a waltz with a rough garage sheen and a tendency to fray into lo-fi psychedelic insanity. The fleeting, fuzzy instrumental Prison precedes Talkin 3, a screechy, sax-driven track that crescendos riotously into a frantic free jazz freakout. Meaning is even more volatile, beginning with weird, scratchy guitar picking before an aggressive wall of distortion and Segall’s wife’s defiant vocals wash over the listener. Later, Segall blends garage, space and hard rock elements on She, recalling genre pioneers Hawkwind to enthralling effect. Crucially, all of these experiments last long enough to excite without collapsing into indulgence. The 12-minute closing track And, Goodbye is the only song that risks overstaying its welcome, but its position at the end of the album means the pace doesn’t suffer and its appreciation of Pink Floyd tinged prog is always going to win me over.

It’s only February and I’m already certain this album is going to be one of my favourites of the year. Segall’s ability to craft striking pieces of music, utilising a myriad of styles whilst avoiding tasteless self-indulgence is remarkable and giving himself the room to sprawl has only further confirmed that. Segall may often wear his influences on his sleeve, but his irresistible energy and distinct personality ensure I never feel like I’d rather be listening to someone else. Most importantly, this record isn’t just long because it can be, but because Segall has the tunes to back it up. In other words, Freedom’s Goblin is how you make a double album.