In Review: Car Seat Headrest - 'Hollywood'

The third single from Will Toledo's upcoming album is brilliantly jarring, but it's condemnation of LA's glitterati is let down by unfocused, clichéd lyrics.
Posted: 25 April 2020 Words: Sam Barker

‘Hollywood,’ Car Seat Headrest’s third single from forthcoming album Making a Door Less Open is a curious creature. From a purely auditory standpoint, the track is infectious; guitar riffs and steady drum-beats sit alongside squiggly synth-lines and vocal processing that shudders and shrieks. The production is clean, and the guitar work dirty enough to allow the MIDI sounds to wallow in a slightly murkier environment, and making it alarming, yet engaging, listening. Described as a ‘quasi-collaboration’ between the band and 1 Trait Danger (an electronic side project from Car Seat Headrest bandleader Will Toledo and drummer Andrew Katz), the match-up proves to be jarring in a pretty brilliant way. 

The song is ultimately let down, however, by subpar lyrics that don’t quite cohere into a track as effectively as Toledo desired. There’s an anger in the song that feels not completely focused or decided upon. A landscape of Hollywood’s sins and errors are presented, but the effect is not as intense as it perhaps could be. Though there are great lines in the first and final verses for instance (“12 year olds on pills waking up in beds of big producers,” and “the poster’s painted over in a week if it stinks/ So let the people decide/ On a metro ride.”), the issue is that these two disparately important topics – Hollywood’s well documented issue with predatory behaviour and the fleeting nature of fame/fickle tastes of the public – are given equal room in the track. The sins presented never reach a high enough number for the listener to be overwhelmed. Nor is there enough intensity or detail in any of the transgressions for the listener to become truly engaged with any one aspect of Toledo’s condemnation of Hollywood. 

For a song that is so evidently intended to be about its lyricism, which are at times shockingly blunt, the track’s redeeming aspect is its instrumentation, particularly in how it falls apart and re-assembles itself throughout. The lyrics are disappointingly not shocking enough for the song to drive home Toledo’s point, and too many filler lines that disrupt any sort of impact.

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