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Car Seat Headrest - Teens Of Denial (Album Review)

Thursday, 19 May 2016 Written by Graeme Marsh

‘Teens of Style’, the first Matador release from prolific DIY songwriter Will Toledo, was a superb trip through his ‘90s slacker pop-indebted beginnings, and just about everything else he had previously been influenced by. Comparisons to Pavement were common, but evidence of his genius was liberally scattered throughout the compilation.

‘Teens of Denial’ is Toledo’s first album of fresh material for his new label and its whopping 66 minute run time is packed full of scintillating highlights, even if we'll never get to hear the Cars-referencing/borrowing Just What I Wanted/Not Just What I Needed in its original form after a legal quarrel with a disgruntled Ric Ocasek​ resulted in the recall of thousands of records.

More focused than ‘...Style’, where several years’ worth of material was rifled through to produce something uniquely wide-ranging, the emphasis is firmly on investigating Toledo's slacker-post-punk style.

While this shows rapidly maturing capabilities and honing of skills, contrary gems such as Maud Gone, which saw deviation from the main onslaught, are sadly missing.

It might be less eclectic, but the quality of tracks here is again astounding. The lyrics are infused with the sort of teenage angst we can all relate to, with Toledo speaking of depression, disaffected youth and his inner demons, much of it tongue-in-cheek.

Playing out like elongated versions of Guided By Voices’ short, sharp tales, brimming with a multitude of ideas, Car Seat Headrest give these concepts much more room to breathe, allowing tracks to slowly snake off into the distance only to reel them back in and cast off again. This approach is epitomised by the mammoth 11 and a half minute suite The Ballad Of The Costa Concordia, which expands to a cinematic spectacle before veering off in the direction of a rip-roaring final segment.

Catchy riffs are everywhere. Opener Fill In The Blank mixes a repetitive guitar line with pounding percussion and Toledo’s bemoaning vocal: “You have no right to be depressed. You haven’t tried hard enough to like it.” Manic brass is interspersed with raucous, thunderous guitars on the seven minute Vincent, where vocal distortion akin to that utilised by the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas is resurrected from earlier recordings.

Toledo’s choruses also shine. The stop/start Destroyed By Hippie Powers bludgeons its way into your heart with a combination of guitar and vocal hooks, while the excellent Cosmic Hero moves from quiet beginnings through brooding verses and into a blistering chorus, its thrilling backing vocal harmonies showcasing another of the band’s many strengths. The brilliant Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales cements the record’s essential nature by building on its jerky dynamics before another rousing melody echoes Strangers, the magnificent centrepiece of ‘Teens of Style’.

All the signs are there that Car Seat Headrest will continue developing into something huge. With Toledo’s seemingly endless supply of mind-worming choruses, riffs and melodies he could easily begin to rival the prolific consistency of not only Pollard, but anyone else you might care to mention. ‘Teens of Denial’ is spellbinding and deserves to soar.

Car Seat Headrest Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon June 20 2016 - BRIGHTON Hope and Ruin
Tue June 21 2016 - LONDON 100 Club
Wed June 22 2016 - MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
Thu June 23 2016 - GLASGOW Broadcast

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