Car Seat Headrest: a dialogue

“This is something you can listen to and know it’s good, and you can sing along with the two lines you know and then wait five minutes while you do something else and sing those two lines again. Like two days ago, I was walking from mum’s house in Brighton to the sea via the station and back again, and I was listening to this song, singing along every five minutes.”

Teaching, I have long since argued that love for a particular piece of music, a song, has little to do with the song itself but the context you hear the song within. The reason you might dislike Car Seat Headrest and love Pavement, say, or Autohaze or one of those glorious independent bands we used to write about on Collapse Board during the early 2000s but whose name escapes me, has little to do with the music or production values. How could it? It’s much more down to the cut of the singer’s suit, his geek glasses. Or your age, say. The build up is the build up remains the same.

“While doing art, I normally leave Car Seat Headrest on quite a long time. I have a playlist of their songs on Spotify that I work my way through. It’s an acrylic painting of two clocks layered over each other which is taking quite a long time to do. Probably the best couple of examples are ‘Cosmic Hero’ and ‘Fill In The Blank’ (I’m going to check that’s right), there are a couple of notable lines – the chorus ‘I won’t go to heaven/You won’t go to heaven’, and “Can you kick his ass for me?’. which is really annoying to get on time when you’re singing along.”

Thing is, part of me is revulsed by my reaction to this: that I am so easy to predict: while another part of me is pleased that I can overcome my repulsion (cue Dinosaur song) and once again enjoy music that I’ve enjoyed for so long. Something to do with the way the guitars are being shaken, and blurred. BUT: I’ve mislaid my friends, the people who made this music mean so much to me. Where have my friends gone? Without my friends, what is the point of this one-sided dialogue. Shorn of context and shared connotations, I am guessing the main reason I like this is because I layer my own associations over the top which may well have nothing to do with either the band or the piece of music in question. Does this matter?

Darling, won’t you cut my hair?

“I was talking to someone on line and music came up, and we both recommended each other some bands we liked – they recommended me a few specific songs from Car Seat Headrest. I don’t think I recommended any bands in particular, just a couple of Nirvana songs I liked at the time – like ‘Dumb’ – and ‘Bisexual’ by GRLwood. I’d recently started listening to music a lot more again, and discovered GRLwood. This is the first music I’ve heard in the individual genre they’re in, indie rock. It’s somehow laidback, but with quite loud guitars as well.”

Do you know anything about the band? Like, where they’re from?

“No. I read something about a band being from Seattle, and it might be about them.”

How NOT to write about music – 127. Purple Mountains

Purple Mountains

ah, this was the side of pavement i always preferred. with the double darkness lyricism of david berman. i did not get round to listening to the album before david died and now he is dead listening – like much of life – seems futile. most weekends i spend wondering how old my kids need to be before i can die without anyone noticing. most days and evenings are spent dreaming of sleep. lush and orchestrated and opulent and still this music cannot keep the darkness at bay. all his happiness is gone. how many times did he need to tell us before we started believing? i ain’t accusin’, ain’t finger-pointin’. the strings sound beautiful but strings usually do. the intro should last forever. that would solve something surely. yes i do. i too would like to create beauty before i die but i too see the ultimate futility in this. as the man from the guardian writes with tangy irony, “is berman’s relish in his vocal delivery, and the robust instrumentation, his way of telling us that he’s actually doing ok underneath it all? Hopefully. Cries for help have rarely been so clear, self-aware, and funny.” does it matter whether this is david’s finest music or his worst? really? what do you base your assumptions upon? i’d suggest losing yourself in this but where is the point in losing yourself in this. “is the album of the year a suicide note,” asks one cipher. uh, duh. i have no words of false comfort to offer here.

i’m not trying to make sense of anything.

And as much as we might like to seize the reel and hit rewind
Or quicken our pursuit of what we’re guaranteed to find
When the dying’s finally done and the suffering subsides
All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind
All the suffering gets done by the ones we leave behind