I’ve been avoiding writing about Car Seat Headrest’s masterpiece “Teens of Denial” because a.) it’s impossible to come up with enough good things to say about a record that, no joke, seems to speak so well to the stage of life I’m in yet is enjoyable for anyone (my dad and his friends have been listening to it for months), and b.) EVERYONE into indie music on the internet is putting it atop their end-of-the-year record roundups. It’s a fantastic record, and all I want to say has been said a thousand times in some iteration (and deservingly so).
But I can try. Or at least praise the new single version of “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” that graced Spotify a few weeks ago.
I’ll admit that the original version of the song is actually pretty low in my song-by-song ranking of “Teens.” Don’t get me wrong, the first time I heard it I was like “Oh my LORD” (my reaction to basically every song on the record, in particular the 11:30 “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia”), but after listening to the record in it’s entirety on repeat, my favourites are instead dominated by the heartbreakingly blunt “Cosmic Hero,” the punky and defiant “Fill in the Blank,” and the desperately raging “Destroyed by Hippie Powers.”
But I must give credit where credit is due, and “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is what turned me on to “Teens,” along with “Teens of Style”‘s big hit “Something Soon,” which got a lot of airplay on my satellite radio after Car Seat Headrest got signed to Matador Records.
This new version of the tune is much more upbeat, with lyrics that simplify the message of picking yourself up out of a hole of irresponsibility and finding new meaning to life (some of which are borrowed from Toledo’s 2013 song, “Plane Crash Blues (I Can’t Play Piano)”). The backing vocals on the second verse bring to mind a bit of Beach Boys, and for me, the riffs remind me of a more indie-centric, youthful U2 sound. It’s also shorter, clocking in around 4:02 instead of 6:32, making it more radio and festival-friendly.
Personally, I quite enjoy the changes and find the song to be delightful-it gets the message across, yet you can still bounce along to the music and sing along to the signature chorus of “It doesn’t have to be like this/Killer whales/Killer whales.” I’d love to see either version performed live, and I feel both serve their purpose: The original a great addition to the post-collegiate crisis of “Teens of Denial,” and the single version an excellent way to add some thought-provoking lyricism to a late night TV performance (where I originally heard the song on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon).
I’ve heard Car Seat Headrest is back in the studio already, and I wish I could convey with words how excited I am that another record, or even just some new singles, will be coming soon. Hearing what a crew of young 20somethings can create, and seeing the impact it has on college students, 40-year-old radio and TV hosts, 50-year-old businesspeople and everyone in between gives me hope that God’s gift of music will always be around to bring us together.
As for me, I intend to continue along with my trek into Will Toledo and Co.’s back catalogue, and “Nervous Young Man” and “Twin Fantasy” will most likely be blasting all winter long.
Happiest and blessed holidays to all my friends and readers out there, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the jams of Car Seat Headrest.
God bless, safe travels and peace on Earth.