Car Seat Headrest – The Regent Theater; Los Angeles, CA
Man, it’s been so long since I’ve seen a good, straight-up rock show. I wouldn’t hesitate to say it’s been years. Other than bands like Spiritualized (ie. ones I see whenever they pass through town) it’s even rarer that I’ll go to a rock show headlined by a band I’ve never seen before. In the past few years I’ve being seeing mostly metal shows, noise shows, the occasional one-off (ELO at the Bowl)…but it’s been ages since a rock record has impressed me as much as Teens Of Denial did last year. So of course I had to take the opportunity to see Car Seat Headrest when they rolled through town last night.
The band is in town between Coachella weekends, and will be performing a song (99% sure it’s going to be “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)”) on Conan O’Brien’s TV show. According to frontman Will Toledo, most of his songs are “too long” to play on a TV talk show, so they had to figure out a slightly-edited, uptempo version of the song to meet the time restriction. In preparation for their latest TV appearance (didn’t they just play Conan recently? Or was that Jimmy Fallon? Or was it both?), that version of that song was one of a dozen Car Seat Headrest ripped through in front of a sold-out room at The Regent Theater downtown.
Totally unsure what to expect from Toledo in a live setting, I was kind of floored by the choice to open the show with a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Self Control” [video] Their set traversed new and old releases, about half the songs were off Teens Of Denial and the rest were deeper catalog cuts or covers. The night concluded with a cover of David Bowie’s “Teenage Wildlife” [video] that sounded great. Someone mentioned it was the band’s first attempt at playing the song live, but it sounded just as tight and road-tested as any other tune they played.
Totally unsure what to expect from Toledo in a live setting, I was kind of floored by the choice to open the show with a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Self Control.” Their set traversed new and old releases, about half the songs were off Teens Of Denial and the rest were deeper catalog cuts or covers. The night concluded with a cover of David Bowie’s “Teenage Wildlife” that sounded great. Someone mentioned it was the band’s first attempt at playing the song live, but it sounded just as tight and road-tested as any other tune they played.
In preparation for the show I listened to Teens Of Denial yesterday, and wrote a quick blurb about “Fill In The Blank” as my song of the day on Facebook. In case you missed it, here’s what I wrote:
I guess because I’m going to see Car Seat Headrest tonight, I’ll go with a song from last year’s stunning TEENS OF DENIAL. I was over at a work-acquaintance’s house perusing his record room (yes – it is what it sounds like – an entire room about the size of my apartment that is devoted to his collection) and while I studied insanely rare private press titles and stone-mint psych imports I’d never dreamed of seeing in person, he asked from the front of the room if I’d heard TEENS OF DENIAL yet. He’d just received his pre-order copy on vinyl, and he said it was his favorite record of the year. I waltzed over and sat down to listen to “Fill In The Blank” for the first time, and I was immediately drawn to it.
Will Toledo isn’t your typical English major songwriter penning wordy, epic tomes struggling to attain some sort of rarified, high-art air. To be certain he is a wordsmith – and a fantastic one at that – but he keeps his messages simple. Whatever frustration or existential unease he’s feeling on “Fill In The Blank,” he remains direct, honest, and even manages to toss in a little bit dry playfulness throughout. The shift in perspective between “You” and “I” in successive choruses is a genius trick.
Musically the song is a rush of driving guitars and pummeling drums juxtaposed to a bright, catchy melody. The adrenaline rush and dancing guitars seem to mimic the mounting anxiety of the narrator, until the point at which he decides to just give up and resign himself to his depression. You wouldn’t think it cathartic to resign yourself to apathy, but that’s just the paradoxical nature Toldeo’s songwriting, and I can’t heap higher praise upon it.
If you’ve not heard Car Seat Headrest before, I implore you to give Teens Of Denial a listen. I was skeptical at first (in fact I all but told the person who played the record for me, “What good could Matador possibly be doing in 2016?”), and I came around very quickly. They’re playing Coachella again this weekend — if the show is broadcast live on YouTube again you’d be wise to check out their set if you’re around on Saturday afternoon with nothing to do. And of course they’ll be on Conan tonight so watch that as well, or find it online tomorrow morning when you’re bored at work. The rest of their tour dates can be found here. If a show in your area isn’t yet sold out, go. You’ll thank me.
Self Control [Frank Ocean cover]
Beast Monster Thing (Love Isn’t Love Enough)
Fill In The Blank
1937 State Park
Sober To Death
Destroyed By Hippie Powers
Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An)
Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Famous Prophets (Minds)
encore: Teenage Wildlife [David Bowie cover]
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