It's not exactly a secret that Ty Segall has been allowing his inner popmeister to take the spotlight with greater frequency as his solo career has gained traction, and with 2014's Manipulator, he's delivered one of his most satisfying fusions of pop songcraft and rock & roll snazz. The album opens with the title song, a glorious Brian Wilson homage built around vintage keyboards, but on most of the tracks, Segall's guitars take center stage, and while the expected buzzy chaos is still a major part of his sound, the acoustic textures of "The Clock" and "Green Belly," and the dueling electric/acoustic lines on "Don't You Want to Know (Sue)," show that his picking can be neat and precise when he wants it to be (and the former suggests he's been listening to his old T. Rex albums). When Segall does stomp on the fuzzbox and let rip on rave-ups like "The Crawler" and "It's Over," he's still capable of making his guitar howl like a wounded dinosaur, but the songs here rely far less on lo-fi noise, and the potent grooves of "Mister Main" and the string-laden melodies of "Stick Around" are '70s-style wonders, not dependent on 21st century noise to connect. Ultimately, it's the chunky, elemental melodies of numbers like "The Singer" and "Feel" that make Manipulator so satisfying, and the production is just dirty enough to make the most of Segall's guitars, while still allowing the finer details of the performances to shine through. Manipulator is a reminder that Ty Segall knows his rock & roll, but he knows a lot more than just that, and this '70s-inspired madness results in one of Segall's best and most pleasurable efforts to date.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming