“Has anyone here heard of Car Seat Headrest?!” a boy on my bus yelled to bewildered passengers (true story). “I’m heading to see their gig right now and it’s going to be f*$#king awesome.”
I grinned to myself on my way to The Triffid (1 March), expectations initially a clean slate beginning to rise after his comment.
The opening was an undeniable highlight, perhaps my all-time favourite set introduction; three members (eventually revealing themselves to be indie three-piece Naked Giants) awkwardly wandered on stage and announced: “Uh, hey. We’re a band. We’re going to play some songs for you.”
They belted out ‘TV’, heavy as hell and embellished with all the entertainment values you’d expect (and hope for) from a stereotypical punk outfit. Think a melodramatic (though in no way corny) handling of instruments, guitar played behind heads, head banging, running up and down the stage – you name it, it was executed.
As the song progressed Car Seat Headrest members ran in and took their post, two halfway through the set and the final duo towards the end.
The concept was so simple yet so amusing and visually effective, even unexpectedly (and perhaps unintentionally) serving to emphasise just how massive a seven-piece is.
Primary songwriter and frontman Will Toledo quietly took the mic, shaggy hair over his eyes, donning an Angry Beavers shirt; his iconic vocals were instantly recognisable, a breath of fresh air as he began to sing 2015’s ‘The Drum’.
‘Teens Of Denial’ leading track ‘Fill In The Blank’ proved to be a fan favourite, crowd feverishly chiming along and Will shaking a pair of maracas; the band next set the precedent for a series of long songs to come, ‘Bodys’ clocking in at a lengthy seven minutes.
Sticking with 2018 record ‘Twin Fantasies’, ‘Sober To Death’ wound down the wired atmosphere; a handful of covers were slotted into the set list, Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ featuring faultless harmonies.
Young Giants were generously allocated another spot in the set-list, ‘Pyramids’ palpably more punk-influenced than Car Seat’s melancholy ballads; Will Toledo finally broke the chain and surrendered a well-known track of his own, asking the audience to: “Sing-along with this one,” the crowd willingly obliging with ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’.
‘Beach Life-In-Death’ stretched for an epic thirteen minutes, a characteristic that reflects many of his compositions, though one that became a little tiresome; ‘Cute Thing’ breezed by, transitioning into ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’.
The latter’s swift change of tempo recaptured my full attention before the set closed on ‘Destroyed By Hippie Powers’.
My expectations were initially a clean slate, a white canvas, though now it’s been painted with plenty of colours and qualities, positives and negative.
The darker hues: I was disappointed by the set list, which primarily comprised of covers. For a band with such an enormous song bank, one that even publicly expressed their goal to release ‘as much music as possible’, it was surprising more originals didn’t make the live show cut.
Those that did were mostly from the recent record, an understandable decision being a ‘Twin Fantasies’ tour, though they each tended to vibrate on a similar wavelength.
The similar sounds occasionally drifted from one into the next, instead of making an impressionable impact on their own.
Despite the above criticisms this canvas still has its brighter colours, the multi-instrumental skill between all seven members a particularly vivid shade.
Besides the fact it’s simply awe-inspiring to witness musicians showing so much aptitude, in this instance, the inclusion of such a variety of instruments gave each song a real kick.
While I was disappointed Car Seat Headrest’s slower selection of songs weren’t included, Will’s incredible lyricism was still very much on show; it’s not often musicians reveal such a big-picture perspective, yet his insightful, moody monologues demonstrate a viewpoint as deep as it gets.
I feel the band, utterly brilliant, has undeservedly slipped under the Australian radar, even while encompassing so many musical qualities modern audiences worship.
“Have you heard of Car Seat Headrest?” I asked the man beside me on the bus home, quietly deciding to keep spreading the word, one passenger at a time.