Title: Making a Door Less Open
Artist: Car Seat Headrest
Genre: Electronic / Rock
Released: 01 May 2020
CAR SEAT HEADREST
making a door less open
I could take a piece from you
Let it burn, let the candle burn right through”
An artist taking a new direction in their musical style is almost always polarising. Back in 2000 Radiohead released their fourth studio album Kid A, which completely ditched the era defining route of alternative rock that they had been exploring in their previous album: OK Computer. For some, Kid A was seen as a work of genius, whereas others thought it was a sign that the band had passed their peak. And for many, it simply needed time to sit, and in retrospect Kid A is now generally one of the most revered and respected albums of the 2000s. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons between Kid A and the new Car Seat Headrest Album “Making a Door Less Open”. And while I think that on an artistic level Radiohead’s musical shift was a lot more ambitious and successful, “Making a Door Less Open” has certainly managed to grow on me a great deal over the last month or so since I first listened to it.
Truth be told I was extremely underwhelmed when I first heard MADLO. I was a fan of a few of the teaser tracks, such as ‘Can’t Cool Me Down’ and ‘Martin’, however as soon as the third single ‘Hollywood’ was released, my expectations of this album immediately soured. It was a little unclear what direction Will Toledo was taking with this new album with the first two singles; one of which being an LCD Soundsystem-esque electronic song, and the other having a more acoustic, upbeat feel, but they both were still distinctly Car Seat Headrest. ‘Hollywood’ on the other hand is such a departure from literally anything appealing about the band in the first place. Like really, that song fucking sucks. But this isn’t a review of ‘Hollywood’, it’s a review of the album as a whole. And as I said, even though my initial opinions on the record were relatively lukewarm, and despite my lingering distaste for ‘Hollywood’, over time MADLO has really proved to have some of my favourite songs in the entire Car Seat Headrest discography.
“Sick of drugs
Sick of fucking
Sick of staring at the ads on the bus
Hollywood makes me wanna puke”
For instance, the two versions of ‘Deadlines’ on the digital version of the album (the vinyl edition has a third) are both excellent, and provide some cohesion between the differing styles that MADLO showcases. The former sounds not too far off from something that could fit onto the band’s previous album “Teens of Denial”, and the latter fully embraces the electronic route that Toledo seems to be shifting towards, with both tracks keeping the same general structure to create some continuity throughout the album. Together they are one of the main highlights on the album, and if Toledo is going to continue down the route of making more electronically based music, ‘Deadlines (thoughtful)’ proves that he has the potential to make some incredible music in this vein in the future.
Another example of this is ‘Cant Cool Me Down', which once again chooses to embrace electronic elements over the band’s usual rock-based music. And, once again, it succeeds extremely well. It’s only once we get to ‘Hymn – remix’ that the stylistic shift starts to show some real issues. In the context of the rest of the album it sounds frantic and excessive, which is extremely jarring, especially since it’s placed directly after the absolutely tedious ‘Hollywood’. Having these two weakest tracks so early on in the album is a difficult hurdle to jump, and this structural speedbump may be part of the reason that many people, including me, were so underwhelmed by MADLO when it was first released. However if you do manage to jump that hurdle, there are some pretty quality tracks throughout the second half of the album, such as the aforementioned ‘Martin’, ‘Deadlines’ (Thoughtful), and ‘Life Worth Missing’. The second-to-last track ‘There Must Be More Than Blood’ is definitely overlong, but still quite solid, and although ‘Famous’ doesn’t quite stick the landing as well as it could have, its fine as a conclusion to the album.
MADLO is certainly less dense than Toledo’s earlier work. There would be moments in Teens of Denial and Twin Fantasy where he would be cramming so many lyrics into such a small amount of time that it was almost exhausting, which fit perfectly with their themes of anxiety and angst. However, the music here is far more stripped back and electronic, as well as far less personal or specific than Toledo has written before. For these reasons I can understand the comparisons to Kid A, and although this is far from that level of quality or consistency, as well as being one of the weaker Car Seat Headrest albums, I think if the band decides to really double down on some of the more electronic aspects they experimented with here they could come out with something truly great for their next project.
“Cool water on my brow
Can't cool me down
No, it can't cool me down”
Reviewed by Layton Bryce - 01/07/20