Freedom’s Goblin is the tenth full-length album from prolific 30 year-old singer-songwriter Ty Segall. Expectations for this one were understandably high, given the quality of the initial singles lifted from it. However, Segall seems so transfixed on exploring various styles of rock on this 19-track album, that he has overlooked an opportunity to release a short, sharp collection of terrific songs.
Segall hits the ground running, with a relative sense of purpose in “Fanny Dog”, a rollicking ode to his dog, featuring dissonant Wurlitzer keys, distant horns and an epic electric guitar solo battle. This is contrasted in spectacular fashion with “Rain”, a grand piano-led rock ballad. The drums in the verses threaten to overtake with heavy fills punctuating the singer’s melancholic story. The vocals feel present, yet cold, bruised and somewhat emotionally distant. The next track is an excellent reinterpretation of Hot Chocolate‘s 1978 hit “Every 1’s a Winner”, with two distorted guitars brought to the forefront of the mix and panned hard in both stereo channels.
“Despoiler of Cadaver” is a disco-funk-acid house track consisting of a wah-wah saturated, near-minute long intro and contrasting punk rock monotone vocal delivery. The backing vocals add an occasional splash of colour. “When Mommy Kills You” continues in the same key, albeit in a completely different style, again. It’s a free-spirited, upbeat, heavily distorted track calling to mind Supergrass, but with a vocal harmonisation style reminiscent of The Who. “My Lady’s On Fire” sounds like it could be a Jack White cover of The Rolling Stones. The next track, “Alta” is a grunge ballad, certainly not the strongest track on the album by any stretch of the imagination. Already seven tracks into a 19-track album, one may find their attention waning by this point.
“Meaning” starts with drums, cowbell and time-stretched guitar noises before a sudden cut to unrelenting punk rock. “Cry Cry Cry” contrasts in style yet again, with its stock standard acoustic guitar ballad sensibilities and country-style slide guitar. “Shoot You Up” is a steady, predictable, four-to-the-floor, ‘us vs. them’ rock track with the protagonist crooning, “they’re gonna eat you up”. “You Say All The Nice Things” can only be described as one of those tracks which no one would particularly miss. The lyrics are intrinsically lazy – “do you really want to be with me, do you want me to stay with you”. “The Last Waltz” simply feels as though the band wanted to do a waltz, so why not include it on the album.
“She” recalls Black Sabbath‘s hit song “Paranoid”, while the next track, “Prison” offers a short, distorted avant-rock sojourn. “Talkin 3” continues the experimentation with saxophone and guitar noise. The saxophone instrumentation remains for “The Main Pretender” – a superb track, no doubt the album highlight. “I’m Free” recalls The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album, with Segall’s chord progression mirroring that of the fab four’s “You Won’t See Me”. “5 Ft. Tall” is an energised pop rock song calling to mind Foo Fighters in its verses. The album closes out with the appropriately titled “And, Goodnight”. It’s a 12-minute jam in which the band seemingly goes on for as long as they can, for no good reason other than because they can.
Ultimately, this album serves up some excellent tracks with many moments of fun, intrigue and experimentation. But it’s by no means Segall’s finest work, with the weaker tracks on the album dampening the overall listening experience. Some of it feels self-indulgent and unnecessary. It’s a great thing that in this day and age one can skip to the best tracks with ease.