Review: Car Seat Headrest at the Croxton Bandroom6 March 2018
Car Seat Headrest’s first song of the night is not a Car Seat Headrest song. In fact, Will Toledo—often described as the band’s ‘creative centre’—does not appear until the song is almost over. There are seven people on stage by that point: all four Car Seat Headrest members, plus the associated Seattle act Naked Giants, who, together, give the night one hell of a punch. “Who the fuck are you?” asks Naked Giants’ Gianni Aiello, when Toledo finally takes up his frontman mantle for ‘The Drum’ (Teens Of Style).
Car Seat Headrest appeared on the scene about four years ago, stemming from frontman Toledo’s solo project. This current tour is riding on the re-recording and re-release of their 2015 album Twin Fantasy. Their sound has expanded hugely since the bedroom-indie days of How To Leave Town, since which they’ve released three records with Matador, now blending influences from Weezer to Brian Wilson to ’60s R&B, all overlaid with poetic and personal lyrics about angst, love, and loneliness.
But it’s like a party onstage. There’s chemistry between Toledo and Aiello, who dance around on ‘Bodys’ and the 13-minute ‘Beach Life-in- Death’ (Twin Fantasy). The band often swaps roles, like guitarists Ethan Ives and Grant Mullen taking over vocals on a bunch of songs, or Toledo sliding into playing synth, maraca or tambourine. From the band’s frequent spotlight-shifting and expressive personalities, it seems like Toledo is really trying to shed the ‘solo project’ image, and flesh Car Seat Headrest out into a fully-formed act.
Aside from a few Naked Giants covers, they also tackle ‘The Boxer’ (Simon & Garfunkel), ‘White Ferrari’ (Frank Ocean) and ‘Do What You Gotta Do’ (Nina Simone), the last two blended in a medley for their encore that stretches out over about ten minutes.
It’s hard not to sing along to tracks like ‘Fill In The Blank’ (Teens Of Denial) and ‘Cute Thing’ (Twin Fantasy), and the band’s three guitarists and two drummers give them absolute fortissimo. ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ (Twin Fantasy), a quiet track on the album, closes with a huge, chaotically multilayered climax that feels almost space-rock.
Will Toledo and Car Seat Headrest aren’t synonymous any more, and their live shows certainly expand their image beyond formulaic indie. I honestly can’t wait to see where they go.