Review: Car Seat Headrest deliver an emotional rollercoaster of a set in Melbourne, with Terrible Truths in tow

How do you even begin to describe Car Seat Headrest’s music – ‘lo-fi’ is a commonly used word, but what even is that? The opposite of hifi? As in, Max Watts-formerly known as-Hifi? How would that even be a genre? I digress. Really, lo-fi is a phenomenon, something in the post-emo movement, with less angst and more wistful insight, the kind of music that nurses you through the fumbling agony of being twenty-something. It’s the music that you happy-sad sing along to, and Car Seat Headrest takes it to another level. Will Toledo’s basement project, now signed to Matador records, has ventured to Australia for the first time as part of the Laneway circuit.

Terrible Truths. The callous actuality here is that I haven’t seen this trio play since their Bigsound showcase last year. The terrific fact is that they’re only improving, every time they take the stage. They’ve found their sound, and they are deep within that niche they have carved.

The unique brand of minimalist, post-punk driven music, full of a riot-grrrl tinged ferocity, was the perfect contrast against the melancholy that Car Seat Headrest can sometimes instil. Rani Rose and Stacey Wilson throw lyrics across the stage at each other, a no wave shout off – even more amazing as Rani sang through tonsillitis. The sparse melodic interplay, full of jarring guitar attack and rolling bass, is driven by the flawless drumming of Joe Alexander.

The age of the audience was a lot more varied than I’ve seen recently at gigs – showing the importance of side shows for those not willing to brave the beer-slicked, glittery haze of the hipster haven that is Laneway.

Will Toledo opened with a humble ‘we’re Car Seat Headrest’ (that’s a lie – we know it’s all you, Will), before launching into the epic intro of ‘Vincent’. Needless to say, the audience lost it. Smoothly launching between songs, Will serenaded the crowd with songs spanning his discography (an impressive feat), of course leaning heavily on content from Teens of Denial.

The crowd grew frenetic, shouting heartfelt lyrics across the steamy room. During ‘Unforgiving Girl’, Will’s glasses were fogging up and sliding down his face as he pushed the song to breaking with his guitar part. There was definitely the sound of panties dropping during this song. Figuratively, of course. Maybe literally. Maybe.

‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ set the mosh off, the crowd matching the energy of the four-piece. The sustained energy drew the band back for a double encore, rounding out an emotional rollercoaster of a set.

This was one of those gigs that you leave with guitar hooks ricocheting around your head, Will’s face swimming before your eyes, and vocals surging up inside you. My mate aptly summed it up; ‘I swear I’m not crying, it’s just sweat’.

Sure man, sure.

Car Seat Headrest return to Melbourne on 2nd February to play The Gasometer Hotel in Collingwood. They’re playing all Laneway Festival dates in Australia and new Zealand. For more details about their upcoming shows, head to their Facebook Page.

The reviewer attended the concert at The Curtin Bandroom in Melbourne on 27th January. Photo by Anna Webber