In some ways, and for most bands, going backwards at a time when you’re already, definitely, moving forwards would make little sense. But there is a wilfulness to our Will.
While we were sat, patiently waiting to hear where he’d take Car Seat Headrest next after their ‘Teens Of Denial’ album (their first proper record for Matador), Will Toledo, it turns out, had been looking in his rear-view mirror. There was something in his past, he couldn’t leave behind. Something unfinished. Something to return to.
REWIND: one of our favourite things about Car Seat’s first London gig back in November 2015 (me and the Good Doctor went to this after some deliberations in a pub round the corner) were The Boys At The Front. There was probably about 10 of them. I mean, it’s pretty small Servants Jazz Quarters, but it was nicely full; a cosy bunch of us, mostly there out of curiosity – our interest piqued by the story of this American lo-fi guy who’d made an album every day for seven years and posted all of them on Bandcamp. That’s definitely true. I’m not making it up*
At this stage, I’m guessing the only songs most of us had heard were the ones chosen for the just released compilation ‘Teens Of Style’, an introductory album to mark their signing to Matador. Not The 10 Boys though. The 10 Boys knew all the words. All the words to ALL the songs. The 10 Boys moshed and smiled. The 10 Boys cheered song titles we’d never heard of. The 10 Boys knew.
Whether they’d all come as a gang or they’d independently found and fallen in love with Car Seat online I don’t know. But this record makes me think of them.
REWIND FURTHER: one of the millions of albums Will Toledo famously made at home, with a guitar, some sticks, a piece of string and an empty Cheerios packet, was 2011’s ‘Twin Fantasy’. I’d never properly listened to it till the other week. But it was obviously still haunting Toledo.
Believing that the songs deserved better than the fuzzy, sometimes out of tune solo renderings of them on the original, he returned to give them a second go. To reiterate, this is a plan that could go horribly wrong.
Clever sod that he is however, Toledo has remade the old record and, to be honest, both versions have come out of the experience better than expected. Where the original finds him, almost deliberately lurking in the shadows, an often isolated echoey figure, the remake ‘Twin Fantasy (Face To Face)’ is all the more tender for the way he sits at the front of the songs. There is a different sort of poignancy to the reflective numbers; and a different sort of Loud to the Loud ones.
It is, certainly on tracks like ‘My Boy’ and ‘Stop Smoking’, a difference between reticence and confidence (where both interpretations have validity). The biggest differences play out on the songs where the multi-tracking one man show, has been replaced by a real band. Something like ‘Nervous Young Inhumans’ is very much the sound of where Car Seat are now (if you hadn’t told me this was an old song, I wouldn’t have guessed. In fact pre-internet, he could possibly have passed the whole lot off as new, and none of his new fans would have given a monkeys I doubt).
What’s really impressive though, is that a record that he made when he was 19, I think, doesn’t sound that out of character for him now (was he wise before his years, or is he just not growing up?).
Checking the setlist from 2015, he did three songs from ‘TF’, including ‘Cute Thing’ which was actually a bit of a mess on the original, but obviously even then, he felt it shouldn’t be left behind. And in its new form, he was right. It is very Toledo. A little bit of self-awareness (the clumsy romantic), a little bit of soul; a bit pro-rock, a bit anti-rock (it gently mocks the idea of the rock god right next to a massive – and knowing? – rock guitar work out. He’s playing with your mind again. He does that a lot. Apparently he always has).
And to conclude there’s the title track ‘Twin Fantasy (Those Boys)’, which is more melancholic now; one of the only moments where Toledo’s more innocent, wistful youth poetry sounds like its aged. That sounds, in his voice (and I’m sure I’m reading too much into this) like there’s just a hint of sadness: not for the song but for that feeling of hopeful naivety, that gave it its original bearings.
I don’t know. I wonder what Those Boys think? Those 10 Boys.
PS *I’ve definitely made this up