Car Seat Headrest is the project of a man (Will Toledo) who is only 23; and yet this is his thirteenth album under the name. With a production ethic like that you know Toledo isn’t messing around, and indeed Teens Of Denial goes straight for the jugular with slacker-punk swagger. And, as the first Car Seat Headrest album to be recorded in proper studio, it sounds great. On Matador.
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Fitting, in the end, that this record was pulled back because of a sample. Car Seat Headrest and co. failed to beat down the machiavellian grump Ric Ocasek, whose preservation of some Cars figure from a long time ago drove Merge to a loss of thirty odd K, and ‘Teens of Denial’ now appears without the offending homage and/or plagiarism. Ocasek is a fool, though: he can’t stop this from being a hugely referential, extremely affectionate indie rock record about all the indie rock bands you’d invite to your indie rock dinner party. He just doesn’t get to come to the table.
‘Teens of Denial’ is a record of sprawling rawk jams so in love with themselves that they keep building extra blocks onto themselves: frontman and general song envisioner Will Toledo lets climaxes run and run, sometimes even winding them back just so they can be enjoyed again: Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales” has a nice fret-muted build into a heart-splashing gang vocal of “it doesn’t have to be this way!”, which gets pulled into a synth-glazed bridge into more of the same. The central, supremely pop-punky refrain of “Drugs With Friends” is written so as to be cyclical and self-perpetuating, so that it can last way longer than you’re average hook. This record is long and gruelling in its abundance of catchy bits.
It sounds like Ought. It sounds like LCD Soundsystem. It sounds like Parquet Courts. It sounds psychedelic (seriously! “Vincent” is dejected, Cloud Nothings-lite space rock). It’s a mess of different shambolic bands, all navigated by one new voice of the idiosyncratic. At times it feels like you’re listening to a low-stakes, exceedingly homey record a la Radiator Hospital and Trust Fund -- take the nimble strums and backroom screams of “Not What I Needed” -- while at others you can hear Toledo reaching for the stars, trying to create the hugest fucking version of the slacker sound, with the horns and the long tales and the ballads. There’s nothing left to do but admire the hell out of him for trying.
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- Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest
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