Review: Car Seat Headrest – Olympia Theatre, Dublin
Car Seat Headrest are indie-rock in the most primal sense, originally starting as a solo project for frontman Will Toledo in college. In 2011 Car Seat released Twin Fantasy, a rough and raw lo-fi guitar album with brutally honest lyrics; though Will “never did complete the work.” So when Will had a bit more money and a few more band members, the album was re-recorded as Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) with bells, whistles, and the energy of a live recording. And with a new album comes a new tour supporting it.
First we had the support for the tour, Naked Giants, a quirky three-piece from Seattle. The band will be touring with Car Seat Headrest throughout their Twin Fantasy tour and thankfully delivered a wild hard rock set full of energy. Guitarist Grant Mullen lay on the floor kicking wildly as soundscapes escaped from his guitar, giving way to drummer Henry LaVelle’s multiple solos. The band would later join Car Seat on stage and form a 6-piece that would play the main set.
Car Seat Headrest piled onto the stage and instantly launched into Teens of Denial opener ‘Fill in the Blank’. The crowd was singing along from the beginning, though occasionally getting caught in Will’s unconventional verse structures. The band will be missing guitarist Ethan for this tour, there was a joke about “falling off a cliff”, though Naked Giants’ bassist Gianni will be stepping into his shoes.
Greeting Dublin and joking how the first half of tonight’s setlist lacked any songs from the album they’re touring in support of, they decided to shoe in the first pure-bred power-pop indie masterpiece off Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), the awkwardly sex-charged ‘Cute Thing’. The track lived up to its wildness on the album, and also saw Will bust out a shuffle as he bobbed to the music.
Introducing the surprises in store for the night was a wonderfully faithful cover of Talking Heads’ ‘Crosseyed & Painless’, with a mesmerising guitar part that cut the air. Next was the sombre track ‘Maud Gone’ originally off Monomania. This number saw the crowd whip out actual lighters and sway them as Will took to his first instrument of the night, the guitar, and play a great emotional solo.
Following two tracks off Teens of Denial (‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’ and ‘(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)’) we had ‘Bodys’, which felt rushed at first but ended with a massive crescendo. Henry LaVelle, who was now playing percussion, ran laps around the stage wielding a cowbell, eventually inviting a fan onto the stage to also smash cowbell. Someone gave Will an Ireland flag which was placed over the band’s keyboard.
The loudest moment of the night came with the long-awaited hit ‘Drunk Drivers/ Killer Whales’, a song which wound up being even more of an emotional rollercoaster than the album version.
Next Will took to the Irish keyboard and started a quiet song; causing the audience to shush one another until the venue was silent, wondering what was in store. This wound up being a cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘White Ferrari’, a track which kept the silence until it built into a flurry and Car Seat seamlessly swerved into a cover of Nina Simone’s ‘Do What You Gotta Do’.
‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ closed out the main set with intense energy, carrying more life than the already fantastic album track. It was complete with the speech at the end, though it diverged into a wild section with the drums taking flight.
Coming back on stage for the encore, Will said there’d be one more song before the band launched into the 13-minute juggernaut that is ‘Beach Life-In-Death’. Will had the crowd sing back as he asked “What should I do?”, and moments like “get more groceries get eaten” took on a more depressing and repetitive spin live. Of course it ended in a frenzy as the audience screamed “the ocean washed over your grave!”.
Car Seat Headrest were pretty spectacular live, a second didn’t go by where I wasn’t enamoured by the sound coming from the stage. Highlights are tough to pick, but I’d have to go with ‘Maud Gone’, ‘Drunk Drivers/ Killer Whales’, and ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’. Thankfully their recorded music isn’t far off the live delivery so the experience is relivable, though I’m going to wait patiently for a good video of ‘Maud Gone’ to come out because that track was haunting live.