GIITTV: Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial [Matador]

Believe it or not, Teens of Denial is Car Seat Headrest‘s thirteenth album despite main man Will Toledo only being 23 years old. It races out of the trap with ‘Fill In The Blank’, all Weezer-style power chords and classic rock sensibilities. The snippet of audio preceding the satisfyingly chunky riff with “You are now listening to… err… Car Seat Headrest!” is a knowing nod to his previous lo-fi stylings and the fact that this is most listeners’ introduction to the band. There’s plenty to love, but the momentum is cut abruptly short by Vincent’‘s chiming, two-minute long intro. It stirs itself into something resembling a Strokes album cut and gets interesting with the introduction of some stabs of brass halfway through its 7:46 runtime. It sets the pace for the record: half the tracks here are longer than five and a half minutes and as a band they’re not scared to try out a few different ideas in a song.

Naturally some of these ideas are better than others. ‘(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)’‘s main issue isn’t just that archly ludicrous and word count-unfriendly title, it’s the way that the slow motion, almost country first half morphs into a stoner anthem, belting out the circular outro of “Drugs are better/drugs are better with friends are better/Friends are better with drugs are better” to the point where you expect your dad to shout “Hey Judy, Judy Judy Judy!” any minute.

When it’s good, as on ‘Not Just What I Needed’,  Teens of Denial finds the perfect balance between the AOR sound that is evidently so beloved by Toledo and his resolutely DIY past. The way the song ends with distorted tape loops of guitar and studio chatter, explaining how he used to record vocals in the back seat of his car for privacy, leads wonderfully into ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ a cappella intro of “In the back seat of my car/My love tells me I’m a mess”. It’s an achingly lovely moment and the most emotionally genuine point on the album. Unfortunately the song takes another one of those clever-clever left turns into po-faced sixth-form lyrics about the film Blackfish. Like yeah, it’s a sad film, but does the repetition of “It doesn’t have to be like this/Killer whales” really make you think?

It’s this discourse between the different influences that produces the moments that work best as well as the less successful efforts. ‘The Ballad of the Costa Concordia’ is a cruise ship sailing from acoustic power balladry to Pavement-style indie rock and crashing into Dido‘s ‘White Flag’ along the way. It sums the record up really: it’s bold, it’s more adventurous than most bands manage in an entire career, when it’s good it’s brilliant but there are patches that are pretty crap. And yet somehow, against the odds, it works.


Teens of Denial is out now on Matador Records.


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Owen Jones: Cameron’s shameless about-face on Sadiq Khan shows why people despise politics | Owen Jones

Now he calls him a ‘proud Muslim’, but weeks ago he was tapping into base prejudice to smear him. This will undermine faith in democracy

If you ever wondered why we live in a country where politicians are less trusted than estate agents, look no further than our own prime minister. Earlier this month, the Conservative party was running the most tawdry, bigoted campaign in a generation, and David Cameron was at its absolute heart. Zac Goldsmith has rightly been disgraced for his desperate attempt to secure London’s City Hall by smearing Sadiq Khan, suggesting links to extremists and terrorist sympathisers. But the absolute nadir of this unforgivable campaign was when Cameron hid behind parliamentary privilege to falsely smear Suliman Gani – a British citizen – as an Islamic State supporter, and link him to Khan. That Gani was a Conservative supporter who had repeatedly shared a platform with members of Cameron’s own party, and who had fallen out with Khan over his support for equal marriage, was of no consequence. Here was a cowardly attempt to tap into the most base prejudices that exist about Muslims.

Related: MPs shout ‘racist’ at Cameron after comments on Sadiq Khan during PMQs

Related: David Cameron is ‘proud to campaign’ alongside Sadiq Khan to stay in EU

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GIITTV: Seven Davis Jr – Dancing On The Sun EP (Ninja Tune)

On last year’s Universes, Seven Davis Jr explored a particularly funk-driven take on house music with hip-hop influences. Owing as much debt to Prince and James Brown as it did the steady kick-drum pound of club music, it seemed ready-made for crossover success like Four Tet or Hot Chip, yet his name remains only a cult favourite. Dancing On The Sun is a worthy follow-up and promising stop-gap that remains exuberant even when it misfires.

The title track sounds like, well, dancing on the sun. Over a woozy, filtered chord that sounds suspended in space, a rough-cut beat throbs alongside racing percussion like a sweaty mess of self-orbiting rhythm, with breathless gasps bursting like solar flares. Euphoric and scorched, ‘Dancing On The Sun’ seems tailored for both festival hedonism and underground adventurism. It’s followed by ‘See The Light (Dancing On The Sun Remix)’, which uses the same drum groove but swaps a steady kick for a winding bassline, all restless energy and bleary disorientation. The EP’s remaining tracks don’t quite hit the same peaks, but their pursuit of pleasure is similar. ‘Church’ is ecstatic while ‘Spliffs’ is relaxed: the former’s mix of flashing synth melodies, 80’s boogie bassline and breakbeat swagger is uplifting, but the latter is a hip-hop skit that’s unfortunately as shapeless and self-engaged as its weed-referring title suggests.

Dancing On The Sun is brimming with personality. At just over twenty minutes, (the digital release features a bonus version of the title track featuring a few extra vocal samples), this EP holds more ideas than many artists explore in an album, and it’s all done with a sense of playful warmth.

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GIITTV: PUP – The Dream is Over (SideOneDummy Records)

The reason a band’s second album is generally considered to be difficult, according to received wisdom, is that they spend their whole life writing their debut and then the follow up is thrown together on tour. PUP‘s second album is called The Dream is Over, after the words spoken to singer and guitarist Stefan Babcock by a doctor on discovering that one of his vocal cords had a cyst and was beginning to haemorrhage. Following 450 gigs in the space of two years and a spate of cancellations, combined with the fact that the record includes tracks with names like ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’, ‘My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier’ and ‘Can’t Win’ you’d be forgiven for expecting the worst. Fortunately, you’d be wrong.

‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ opens the record in a reflective mood, Babcock alone with his guitar lamenting that “Everything you do makes me want to vomit / If this tour doesn’t kill you, buddy I’m on it” before the entire bands kicks in with a huge pop-punk riff and the brilliantly tongue-in-cheek call-and-response of “I can’t wait for your funeral/Why can’t we just get along?”, it’s clear that the band are closer than ever. The way that there’s no gap between the opener and second track ‘DVP’ means there’s no pause for breath, bundling headlong into the record.

While opening the record with its two lead singles can make the next few tracks feel a bit flat there’s plenty of energy on show to make up for it, all excitable riffs and lots of yelling. ‘Sleep In The Heat’ is a slight diversion into surfier territory and ‘The Coast’ does some interesting things with a minor key and wailing guitars in the background, but it’s the hardcore blast of ‘Old Wounds’ that drags the record back by the scruff of its neck. You can almost smell the sweat of the venues packed with bodies screaming “You wanna know why I don’t come around anymore / Well it’s so fucking obvious” and “You wanna know if I’m still a prick/Well I am”. That track and ‘Pine Point’ are the two tracks that point in a slightly different direction and interestingly are the strongest tracks on the record along with the singles. ‘Pine Point’ takes the almost balladic direction that ‘Yukon’ from their self titled debut hinted at but stretches it further, committing more to the idea. It’s a great success as well, a lament for a town left to ruin after the closure of the local mine. Otherwise there may not be an awful lot new on offer from The Dream is Over but PUP are doing their thing so well that it’s unlikely anyone will be disappointed.

The Dream is Over is out now on SideOneDummy Records.

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GIITTV: Daniel Romano & The Trilliums – The Crescent, York, 29/05/16

Not everything is quite as it seems in the world of Daniel Romano. From the merchandise table he stares from the cover of his 2013 album Come Cry With Me dressed in a Stetson hat and a spectacular pink and brown Nudie suit. He looks part Porter Wagoner, part riverboat gambler.  He sings knowingly about relationship breakdown, heartache and trauma – the staple diet of many a top country tune – but concedes these songs are not born of his own personal experiences. Yet despite this and repeated attempts by most everyone to try and bracket his music as modern country, the man from Southern Ontario in Canada just plain refuses to be pigeon-holed.

In a recent interview Romano said “I’m not a fan of being labelled…” and as a pre-show playlist heavy on Françoise Hardy and Serge Gainsbourg will confirm, it is apparent that he and his music are out to defy simple categorisation. It soon becomes abundantly clear that he does not want to be simply another member of another club that he wishes to have absolutely no part of.

Dressed in a grey hoodie and black motorcycle jacket, Romano tonight presents more like a New York street punk than any Nashville troubadour and his music initially reflects exactly the way that he looks. Over the sea with his three-piece band The Trilliums, he is in Europe essentially to promote his new album, Mosey. Such is his productivity – this is Romano’s fifth full-length release in as many years and the record will be accompanied by a simultaneous, totally separate album called Ancient Shapes – he describes Mosey as “the greatest hits…of the last year.”

The band duly opens with ‘Valerie Leon’, the first track from Mosey. Partially inspired by the early 70’s British horror film, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, the song is an observation on how something apparently so bad can actually be really good. Stripped here of its lush studio strings and mariachi horns, it is a louche, lascivious rocker. It is thrilling; it is exciting and has an essential air of pure emotional detachment. It is everything that great rock’n’roll should be.

Daniel Romano

‘I Had To Hide Your Poem in a Song’ and ‘Toulouse’ – both taken from the new record, with the latter featuring fellow Canadian Kay Berkel reprising Rachel McAdams’ studio duet role – owe far more to Lou Reed and Tom Verlaine than ever they do Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons. But for all that they arouse some thoughts about a ‘70s New York revivalism, the feelings that they generate move way beyond mere nostalgia. For these special moments in which they exist they inspire a true belief in the here and now.

‘One Hundred Regrets Avenue’ – where the band exit the stage leaving Romano to stand alone at the microphone accompanied only by a pre-recorded piano track – is revealed as a glorious torch song. ‘You’d Think I’d Think’ and ‘Something Keeps Me Coming Back For More’ are magnificent country-blues tearjerkers that lie somewhere between George Jones and Exile on Main Street-period Rolling Stones but such is their poignancy and power they step well outside of that simple classification.

Daniel Romano and The Trilliums sign off with a double-encore of ‘New Love’ and ‘I’m Gonna Teach You’.   Just like Romano himself their impact is immediate and shows just why he will never be a part of what he refers to as the “soft generation”, an age in which art is routinely diluted to a point where it runs the risk of being standardised. Daniel Romano lives in another musical world altogether and for some brief moments tonight it was an honour and privilege to be part of it.

Photo credit: Simon Godley

More photos from this show can be found HERE

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