Why A Record Company Destroyed (Almost) Every Copy Of One Of 2016’s Best Albums (Or, The Story of Car Seat Headrest)

You know those people who effortlessly appear to be on top of the music scene?

You’ve probably met one… 

“The Brilldeloes? Yeah – great band from South Wisconsin – like a young Lou Reed mixed with Jess Glynne and early J Geils… Yeah, super band – their debut album comes out next week.”

There’s a thin line between being a useful source of knowledge and a dreadful smug know-it-all. Hopefully, we’re going to fall into the former category here…

Most of the time if people tell me about a band I look at them blankly. 

Well, more blankly than normal, I mean. 

Picture a fishmongers stall towards the end of a warm afternoon and direct your gaze to one of the fish that have been more exposed than most to the sun. 

That’s the look I have perfected. 

All of which is a long winded way of telling you there’s a band I have just found out about which I really ought to have discovered before, and I am going to tell you about them so you can either a) roll your eyes in an “that’s so obvious” way at me or b) give you a quick heads up so you can impress your mates. 

Last week I received a three word email from a friend. It read:

“Car seat headrest?”

I looked at it nonplused. I was at work. I wondered whether my friend was trying to tell me something work related. Was he asking me about a business that sold car seat headrests?

Stranger things have happened…

I was a bit baffled, so told him it sounded like a new type of Pokemon and asked if I could help in any way. 

We left it there. 

A few days later I was chatting to someone else about Glastonbury and we realised how two people can go to the same festival and not see any of the same bands. It was getting a bit awkward when I told him I had seen Coldplay instead of LCD Soundsystem, with me blaming it on some mates and him looking less than convinced, when he told me one of his favourite bands of the weekend was Car Seat Headrest. 

It was at that exact moment that the penny dropped and I now realised what that earlier, rather mysterious email was about. 

I may be a bit slow on the uptake, but even I can connect those dots. 

You’ve been very patient, so let’s get on with telling you about one of the best albums of the year so far. 

Here’s what you need to know about Car Seat Headrest:

  • Based in Seattle, Washington, and originally a solo project by Will Toledo who hails from Leesburg, Virginia. 
  • The name “Car Seat Headrest” comes from Will’s preference for recording his vocals on early albums in the back of his car, which is the best reason to name a band since an early incarnation of Black Sabbath was named after a brand of talcum powder beloved of old ladies. 
  • Presumably if John Lennon and Paul McCartney had taken the same approach as Car Seat Headrest by naming their band after the place where they first began, instead of The Beatles, we would be celebrating fifty years since Aunt Mimi’s Front Room released “Revolver”.
  • Toledo is prolific. He has released more albums than Donald Trump has said offensive things about Mexican people. He released twelve albums on the Bandcamp website between 2010 and 2015, which is twelve more than Guns n Roses managed in the same period. 
  • His new album is called “Teens of Denial”.

Now a full band, the music is unashamedly indie, funny, cynical and great. The band signed to Matador records last year (home of Queens of the Stone Age) and released a compilation album of reworked Bandcamp material called Teens of Style. 

New album Teens of Denial was released in May 2016, but copies had to be recalled and destroyed after it transpired that although a sample of “Just What I Needed” by The Cars had been cleared, the publishing company did not realise a lyric had changed from “It’s not the ribbons in your hair” to “It’s not the way you cut your hair.” When they found out, just ten days prior to release, the publisher withdrew their consent and 5,800 copies of the album had to be recalled (according to that bastion of music industry gossip The Wall Street Journal) costing Matador Records $50,000, not to mention lost sales on the release weekend – Rough Trade East reckon they lost fifty sales that weekend as the album wasn’t available on vinyl until weeks after the digital release. It’s a double LP too, so each album had to be opened, one LP withdrawn and then the rest stored whilst Toledo recorded a new version not featuring material by The Cars and new vinyl was pressed. 

If you find a copy with the original sample – as one or two people have managed to do – you have a collector’s item similar in nature (if not yet of value or stature) to that withdrawn Yesterday and Today “butcher” cover by The Beatles. 

Good luck. If you are a lottery winner, there’s already a copy on Discogs for $246. We can only hope the people at Matador records are enterprising enough to have stashed a few copies away for themselves before they hurled these priceless heirlooms into the compactor. 

In one respect this thirteenth album by Will Toledo – Teens of Denial – is his debut album. It’s his first with a full band and his first on a record label to feature entirely new material. Everything else up to this point has been preparation…

And what an album it is. Aside from all the vaguely interesting shenanigans around record recalls, none of that would matter if the LP itself wasn’t remarkable. And Teens of Denial undoubtedly is. The twelve albums that preceded it have sharpened Toledo’s writing chops and we are left with an extraordinary album featuring both an eleven minute indie-suite called “The Ballad of Costa Concordia” and a song title that takes nearly eleven minutes to say – the brilliantly titled

“(Joe Gets Kicked out of School for Using) Drugs with Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)”

There are some great lines and some great tunes. And the real killer? 

You know the guy who has written and produced these thirteen albums? 

The veteran of this indie lo-fi scene? 

That Will Toledo fella?

It’s his birthday this coming Tuesday….

He’ll be just 24 years old. 



Categories: Indie

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. I had got Twin Fantasy a while back on the recommendation of a friend (I think), but haven’t explored anything other than that one and bits and pieces here and there.

    Anyhoo, this is a bad news story. Except for those who got their hands on the initial pressing (few folks from Matador’s warehouse, huh?). Somebody shoulda been more thorough. Ouch.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I just read about this one over at Marshall’s site, Free City Sounds. It sounds awesome!

    https://freecitysounds.com/2016/08/20/car-seat-headrest-teens-of-denial/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alright, I guess I need to listen to this band…this is the third time this week they’ve come up. You are the straw that broke this camels back.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OK, dammit. I had you beat for once. I listened to them a couple of months back but they didn’t make an impression. But after reading your article, I just put them on for another listen. What was I thinking? I’m only one song in and this is an AOTY contender.

    You win. (And thanks.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great story that brought to mind Casablanca boss Neil Bogart throwing a huge strop when he saw what 70s Us glam rock outfit Angel had planned in 1979 for the cover of their fifth studio album ‘Bad Publicity’. Not exactly ‘Smell The Glove’ style stuff, but the fact that the intended cover featured the band out of stage costume in a carefully trashed room at the Hyatt on Sunset amongst booze, groupies, journalists and a dwarf (!) with the ‘best of’ the bad reviews on the rear of the jacket resulted in Bogart pulling the release at the shrink wrap stage and (almost) all of the original album covers were destroyed. The album was initially rush released with a new cover and re-titled ‘Sinful’, but with the labels on the vinyl still titled ‘Bad Publicity’.
    A few copies of the ‘Bad Publicity’ covered version survived – I have one – but probably amount to 20 at the most. When the album was re-released on CD in the early 90s the original artwork was included as part of the booklet.

    Like

  6. This album is an absolute revelation. I listened to it non-stop over the summer, despite my usual listening habits tending more towards heavy metal and hip-hop. Wonderfully lyrical and much catchier than it has any right to be.

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks

  1. Beer – #831 – Garage Project – Bière de Garage | A life just as ordinary
  2. Car Seat Headrest in the news – Aug. 2016 – Notes n Letters

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