Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Car Seat Headrest

18th of May 2018

Glasgow O2 ABC

Welcome to the wonderful and slightly off-kilter world of Will Toledo – the Brewtser McCloud of Pop.  A prolific songwriter in his teens, Virginia born Toledo, under the guise of Car Seat Headrest, notably churned out four albums in as many months during 2010 using the Bandcamp (effectively download for free) platform.  

He settled down a touch after this opening salvo, releasing a further four albums before in 2015, due at least in part I am sure to his persistence, he finally attracted the attentions of a “real” record label.

By this point his songwriting had developed from the slightly unfocussed and rambling DIY bedroom recordings of his first two albums, to a more conventional, (whatever is meant by that mean-nothing genre: Indie), style.  By this point Car Seat Headrest had been fleshed out with the addition of rhythm section Andrew Katz on drums and bassist Jacob Bloom.

This jaunt saw the band promoting the Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) album; ostensibly their eleventh, but in reality a re-recording/re-imagining of one from Toledo's Bandcamp days. 

And the music?  Well, Toledo's vocal style can be a bit of an acquired taste – think Jonathan Richman with a dash of Blue Mask-era Lou Reed.  Musically, although a few of the tunes thrash out in a run-of-the-mill manner (Beach Life-In-Death and Bodys), most of the compositions are remarkably complex affairs, perfect vehicles for Toledo's world-weary bucolic take on the world in general, and relationships in particular.

I would aver Will watched the Talking Heads' film Stop Making Sense more than a few times in his youth, with many of his eccentric dance moves, to my eyes anyway, lifted wholesale from David Byrne's performance therein.  Nothing wrong with that, of course.

This notion was given more credence, when the band opened their set with the pleasingly familiar, (to me, anyway) groove of Cross-Eyed and Painless.  A frantic run through of Bodys followed; Toledo afterwards expressing concern they may have “peaked too soon”.  Usual CSH guitarist Ethan Ives had not made the trip across the ocean this time around having (in his own words)  “got a little burned out on tour last year so I'm sitting it out”.  Toledo solved this issue by the simple expedient of drafting in the three members of support act Naked Giants as honorary members.

Much of the audience was highly appreciative throughout – Toledo did mention he could not recall a gig where so many people knew so many of the songs.  But during the two slower numbers – the hypnotic drone of Maud Gone and then Will's take on Frank Ocean's White Ferrari - both performances had to battle against an irritating chatter thrum.  Why do folks come to gigs and gab?  Stay at home, or stay in a pub.

Towards the end of the set, Twin Fantasy from the new album morphed via a short percussive break into a vaguely familiar tune.  Which I finally placed as an almost unrecognisable rendition of the old Jimmy Webb composition Do What You Gotta Do (a hit for Al Wilson, back in '68).  And the coincidence then struck me that the last gig I had attended before this one had been by Webb himself in Glasgow just 10 days earlier.  And I rather think I would confidently bet my mortgage on the fact I was the only person on the planet who had attended both these gigs.

The final song of the evening, was a slightly chaotic jam over which Toledo mumbled a monologue which I would swear included much of the lyrics from Don't Cry For Me Argentina.  Just before leaving the stage he sheepishly apologised for “that last song”.  Perhaps he was aware of Scotland's travails in that country 40 years ago next month. 

Set list

Cross Eyed and Painless
Fill in the Blank
Maud Gone
Destroyed by Hippie Powers
Cute Thing
Drugs With Friends
Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales
White Ferrari
Twin Fantasy / Do What You Gotta Do
Beach Life-In-Death

Sober To Death
Nervous Young Inhumans / Don't Cry For Me Argentina

Car Seat Headrest - Glasgow May 2018

Will Toledo & Henry LaVallee

Will Toledo & Henry LaVallee

Grant Mullen - a Naked Giant, rather than a Car Seat Headrest.

Car Seat Headrest - Glasgow May 2018

The Glasgow O2 ABC

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