Freedom’s Goblin, Ty Segall’s tenth studio record in as many years, is a confident, unrestrained double-album. It contains some of Segall’s finest tracks, a couple of wonderful covers, and a few instances of filler. It’s his longest record to date, but can also be one of his most rewarding. During its best moments, Freedom’s Goblin plays like a celebration of Segall’s creativity, whereas other songs are immediately forgettable, despite being fairly decent. So where exactly does that leave us?
Freedom’s Goblin is a bold step for Segall, and that is to be commended. Unfortunately (and perhaps predictably, given the track record of such a sizable construct), the double-album format doesn’t quite pay off. Freedom’s Goblin is rarely boring, but that doesn’t stop it meandering at certain points. A handful of songs could have been cut and it would have made the World of difference. Segall flaunts his ability to thrill the listener with an array of musical styles and genres, and whilst this practice generates a fair measure of excess, it also enables Freedom’s Goblin to possibly become the finest showcase of his talents so far. It oozes creativity, even if it’s not always too refined. The best tracks — “Alta”, “And, Goodnight”, “Rain”, as well as many others – put forward a very convincing case that Segall is not just one of the most prolific names in rock music, but one of the greatest.
Ultimately, I think Freedom’s Goblin will benefit two types of people the most: aficionados and newcomers. Long-term fans will find plenty to love across the duration, and there is enough variety to entice listeners who are unfamiliar with Segall’s work. Despite its shortcomings, you couldn’t feasibly accuse the record of being dull, as it flicks from freeform jazz to sizzling garage-rock without any hesitancy. It’s captivating and close to being fantastic. It’s possible that Segall’s rapid work-rate, as impressive as it is, may have been detrimental to the final product. If the fat had been trimmed, Freedom’s Goblin could have been very special indeed. Most fans can take comfort in the knowledge that the next album is probably only a few months away.8 10
Favourite tracks // Alta
Every 1’s A Winner
Trying to describe my feelings on Freedom’s Goblin leaves me reaching for all kinds of clumsy metaphors. Limp handshake from a great guy; B movie masterpiece; an album rehearsing itself; easy to listen to and easy to forget, like those people at parties. Take your pick. The album’s a smorgasbord of talents and genres, but something about its execution leaves me seriously wanting — much as I’d like to feel otherwise. The record flaunts dynamic, enterprising rock exploring myriad sounds and wonders. There’s no denying that. The record’s nothing if not vast, and some of Ty Segall’s melodies really are beautiful. There’s a lot right with it, but there’s almost too many pieces for it to click together properly.
To an extent Freedom’s Goblin is a victim of its own ambition and of Segall’s protean talent. A laudable amount of ground is covered, but the album’s identity fails to click into place and as a whole it comes off bloated and aimless. Combine this with a runtime of 75 minutes and you’re in trouble. There’s a slackness to the sound, as if it’s largely incapable of gripping you and holding on. Which is true, at least for me. Bizarrely, the album manages to traverse The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Radiohead in one fell swoop and I still feel let down by it. Maybe that’s a testament to Segall’s talents; maybe to the depths of my joylessness. Who knows.6 10
Favourite tracks // And, Goodnight
Every 1’s A Winner
While I’m normally the first one to bemoan an album’s length, Ty Segall has managed to make the very exclusive list of exceptions. Make no mistake, there are tracks here that I wouldn’t miss terribly had they been resigned to b-sides, and the six-minute jam in “She” does push towards outstaying its welcome, even if it does sound like the band are having a great time throughout. The majority of the album, however, makes for a smashing listen. Ty Segall has a knack for a solid riff and incorporates these well with instrumentation that hits the spot, full of ’60s and ’70s guitar crunches and wails, at times harking back to The Beatles and Pink Floyd era music. It’s hard to pick out highlights from a tracklist like this, due in equal parts to its quality and length, but “Rain”, “Cry Cry Cry” and “The Main Pretender” all had me coming back to the album for their vastly different approaches to a relatively cohesive sound. The cover of “Every 1’s A Winner” is also a belter of an arrangement and I’d say it even has the edge on the original too. Even the closer, which sits at the twelve-minute mark, doesn’t drag its feet and feels like a victory lap for the rest of the album. Freedom’s Goblin has done well to warm me to its tracklist despite its length, despite some tracks that miss the mark around the midpoint, and despite some rough edges in the production at certain stages. I’ll certainly return to it, even if it’s just for that Hot Chocolate cover.7 10
Favourite tracks // Rain
Every 1’s a Winner
The Main Pretender