Full disclaimer, I fucking love Teens of Denial. This is possibly going to make me sound like an asshole, but I really don’t agree with all the people who are talking about “how bad it is compared to his older albums.” I could agree that it’s not as deep as, say, Twin Fantasy (my personal favorite), but you must admit that almost the entire album is amazing both musically and lyrically. If you like the more emotional stuff, then yes, please go listen to your other favorite Car Seat album and tell me all about it, but TRY to give Teens of Denial a chance.
Today the song I’ve got stuck in my head is “Cosmic Hero.” A note: How to Leave Town is made up mostly of songs that didn’t make it onto Denial, and this is the one that sounds the most like it could have been on How to Leave Town. There’s a certain production quality, for obvious reasons, that doesn’t let it fit in this state, but if Will had left it unpolished i could absolutely see it on How to Leave Town.
This song is, when you first look at it, very oddly placed on Denial, because it begins with this sharp shiny horn intro, two measures of a solid high G, and you’re sort of expecting some kind of electric guitar or drum beat to come in after the last eight songs on the record did the same thing (minus”Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales,” but even that introduction was shorter). Instead the lone trumpet keeps soloing, and it evolves into a mini-symphony of harmonizing for an entire minute before the guitar even begins to come in, and even that happens quietly. The drums and bass come in after another 30 seconds or so, and it’s turned into what sounds like the intro for any other song on the album. It’s not really important, the significance of this horn intro, I just like that it seems like a pre-introduction, almost a separate song in itself.
Come to think of it, all these columns end up in is “I just think they’re neat!”
Not to get entirely off-topic, but this reminds me of the line in Will’s piece on Kanye West’s ‘the Life of Pablo’: “But this is music journalism, and we must do better.” I can’t just say it’s a good song, even though it IS a good song. Teens of Denial is difficult for me to write about in this respect, because with earlier albums, there was a more personal edge to them. It’s not that Denial isn’t personal, again, I know it is and it’s definitely visible, there’s just the barrier between consumer and artist that can’t help but to exist in a much more obvious way with the post-signing albums. Twin Fantasy is easy for me to analyze because the emotions on it are more raw; Will was younger and his recording setup was shittier and his experiences were newer, scarier, and more… how to put this… poetic, in a sense. Teens of Denial is still poetic, I absolutely admit that it’s still blatantly Will’s, but I think there’s just a disconnect of the veteran listener not being used to professional-grade Car Seat Headrest material. Like, for example, if i heard 3‘s “Portrait of the Artist…” recorded in an actual studio with real equipment, it would unnerve me to the point of needing to take a moment. There’s something oddly comforting in knowing the vocals were recorded in some depressed kid’s dorm room. I think I just figured out why everyone’s bagging on this album.
I don’t agree, though. I really don’t. For me personally there’s not anything inherently better about the homemade music than the professional stuff. In fact, maybe it’s better that it’s harder to analyze. Perhaps the point is that you have to think about it more. The artist is evolving, so must the viewers. I can’t decide if this overrides the something of the first albums, but it’s definitely something to think about.
I’ve remembered who Will is and his policy on how he consumes art. Of course this is the point. I think I just figured it out.
Remember when I was trying to talk about “Cosmic Hero”?