Tuesday, May 24, 2016

It's Too Late to Articulate

Ever since I went into full on fan mode with Car Seat Headrest I've had this idea that Will Toledo is the successful son of Nik Kranis, the outsider musician from Dana Spiotta's Stone Arabia. 

The story goes that a Matador intern passed along Car Seat Headrest's bandcamp stuff to Chris Lombardi and that's how he got signed. To have been such a history-making intern! I was an intern at Matador back in the late '90s and the closest I ever got to helping make such a monumental decision was when Chris Lombardi called me into an office to watch Yo La Tengo's video for "Sugarcube" and asked me what I thought. I said I thought it was cool. End of story.

I've teased out this idea of the tyranny of sense-making before, especially when it comes to lyrics. I hold that impressionistic lyrics can be smart without having to make concrete meaning. I often prefer that because key and tone already do the emotional heavy lifting in rock music. Pavement's Grounded and Car Seat Headrest's Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales are both examples of songs where the lyrics become more affecting because of the musical crescendoes and yelped vocals than what the song is actually saying. I suspect Will Toledo was playing with that when he took a song that could have gone for straight meaning-making and shifted things into non-sense when he threw in two words that have the power of the most fist-pumping anthems, but don't fit the context of the previous lyrics. Killer whales? Sounds great! Does is mean anything besides the existential mind fuck that is climate change and species extinction? Does it matter? Not to my mind. I'm sure these are exactly the non-committal lyrical shenanigans that have always irked Stephen Malkmus' critics. Why can't he just GET SERIOUS FOR ONCE? Again--the tyranny of sense-making.

If someone options Spiotta's Stone Arabia for the movies, I nominate Car Seat Headrest to write the soundtrack and provide the musical ephemera. He's the Internet's incarnation of Nik Kranis's self-mythologizing (if you don't write your own myth, who will know you're a genius?)

Got to believe that Lombardi loves me<----this lyric was added to an updated version of "Times to Die", one of the bandcamp songs that got re-recorded and released as Teens of Style. I like that Will Toledo doesn't consider a song finished just because he put it on a record. That's cool.