wed 24/07/2024

Car Seat Headrest, Electric Ballroom | reviews, news & interviews

Car Seat Headrest, Electric Ballroom

Car Seat Headrest, Electric Ballroom

Will Toledo’s lo-fi indie initially struggles to find itself live

Rock'n'roll life in a Seattle bedsit

Seattle-based rockers Car Seat Headrest finally burst their cult bubble with their 13th album, last year’s Teens of Denial, which found veteran songwriter Will Toledo combining Nineties indie, post-punk nihilism and psyche

delic vocal harmonies in a collection of sprawling lo-fi jams. Inside the sold out 1,100 capacity Electric Ballroom, expectations are subsequently set extremely high.

The formidable TRAAMS are supporting Car Seat Headrest for their whole European tour, and as one of the most prolific bands in the south of England, they’ve become notable for their live performances. TRAAMS sound like a krautrock Television; utterly hypnotic. Singer Hopkins’s vocals hover between manic rants and desperate howls, and the only thing more arresting than bassist Padley’s commanding presence on stage is the throbbing basslines that carry the songs over the persistently driving drumbeats and raucous, snarling guitar riffs.

Despite strutting on stage late to wild applause, singer-guitarist and cult icon Will Toledo’s black turtleneck and retro black glasses instantly undermine any rock star image. Two of the strongest tracks from Teens of Denial (“Vincent” and “Fill in the Blank”) open their set, but both fall short of the excitement coursing through the album versions. The intricate interplay of the guitars fails to materialise as Toledo initially focuses on delivering overly bombastic vocals, while lead guitarist Evan Ives’s shredding similarly makes the songs feel disappointing. Everything feels a little too stadium-rock.

Moving onto some quieter, more intimate songs, Toledo’s voice begins to come into its own, as he drops the bravado which tainted the start of the set and settles into the confession-tinged warmth that he’s become recognisable for. Indeed, as the set progresses, the whole band seem to become more comfortable on stage, settling into the raw emotion of the songs.

“Stoop Kid”, taken from 2013’s My Back Is Killing Me Baby, is where the set really takes off. The rollicking guitar and drums pulse through the song, showing off the simplicity and beauty of Toledo’s songwriting. Following this is the set highlight, single “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”, which breathtakingly shifts from the ballad-esque intro into the lurching, stomping chorus. The consistently appreciative audience go berserk.

In set closer “Famous Prophets (Minds)”, Toledo’s high voice interacts beautifully with the bass, which has throughout the set sounded immense on the Electric Ballroom sound system. The two-song encore starts with a tender rendition of Frank Ocean’s “Ivy”, which sees just Toledo and his guitar mournfully channel Jeff Buckley, before the band finish on the hip-shaking singalong, “Connect the Dots”.

Despite the disappointing classic-rock slant that marred some of the set, Car Seat Headrest have an endearing boyish charm about them. The band set up their own equipment before they go on, and joke with the audience and with each other between songs, consistently being greeted by whoops, screams, and laughter. It’s just a shame the songs don’t translate quite as well live as the people playing them do.

Read more new music reviews on theartsdesk

Watch the lyric video for "Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales"

Toledo’s voice begins to come into its own, as he drops the bravado which tainted the start of the set


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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