I:Mreview

Live Review: Car Seat Headrest @ SWX

I:Mreview
Live Review: Car Seat Headrest @ SWX

First appearing as front man Will Toledo’s solo project back in 2010, Car Seat Headrest (CSH) today is a band breathing new life into their sound. Renowned for their prolifically, Toledo and co. released a sleek reworked version of 2011 album ‘Twin Fantasy’ earlier this year, meanwhile expanding their lineup to perform as a commanding seven-piece ensemble. Stopping off at the conceivably ostentatious SWX, it seemed a bizarre venue for a bunch of idiosyncratic indie rockers. To arrive and see a wave of tight-fitted floral shirts in the crowd was equally puzzling. Ignoring the visual incongruities; CSH played a sonically immersing show, knitting compulsive pop-like choruses with introspective lyricism and thunderous crescendos. Oozing confidence with thirteen released albums now under their belt, they showed exactly why they’ve amassed their global cult following.

An unhurried rendition of Lou Reed’s ‘Waves of Fear’ steadied the air initially; before the marching drumbeat of fan-favourite ‘Bodys’ erupted, sending the crowd into an impotent frenzy. No time for even a sip of beer was permitted, as ‘Fill in the Blank’ followed immediately at a similarly electric BPM. Acting as master puppeteers, the two drummers added resounding depth and a force more powerful than any food envy imaginable. They accompanied roaring guitars and Toledo’s effortless moans of neglect, as he hopped around stage resembling a peculiar Napoleon Dynamite/Sue Perkins cross-breed. A break in festivities came through an aching rendition of the relatively downbeat ‘Maud Gone’. But the debauchery soon resumed, as ‘Teens of Denial’ album compatriots ‘Destroyed by Hippie Powers’ and ‘(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)’ returned the crowd to their dancing shoes.

CSH operated as a close-knit unit throughout the show, interweaving the familiar with the unknown to adroitly play with the crowd’s mood. A funky version of Talking Heads’ ‘Crosseyed and Painless’ boasted Toledo’s impressive vocal range, preceding their dizzying archetypal track, ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’. Frantic mosh pits exploded through the deafening chorus, while inflatable killer whales circulated haphazardly around the unbridled chaos. Proceedings appeared to be cut short after ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’, when the full band abruptly exited stage left before the clock had struck ten. The crowd’s seemingly insatiable appetite saw desperate pleas for an encore echo through the venue, as CSH’s inevitable submission came through a return to ‘Twin Fantasy’. Tracks ‘Sober to Death’ and ‘Beach Life-In-Death’ concluded the evening’s jamboree in typically a rumbustious fashion, Toledo saving his finest jerky hip swings ‘til last. Though wound-up sooner than probably most would have hoped, the relentless energy maintained throughout the gig made sure nobody left feeling short-changed. With their rate of production showing no signs of slowing down and more UK shows booked for the autumn, all aboard the Toledo Express.

Listen to Car Seat Headrest on their bandcamp

Oli Parker