Surpassing Emotion: Teens of Denial Examines Mental Health, Societal Norms, and Anxiety with Complete Transparency
Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Denial carries a lyrical weight that is matched by sonic innovation that enters through unusual rhythmic patterns and short quips that quickly transform throughout one song. The rise and fall, and most notably the powerful build-ups, create this chaos of raw and incredibly honest emotion, much like the chaos inside one’s mind during those teenage years, where emotions and denial conflict in an epic battle for insanity.
“I’m so sick of fill in the blank/ Accomplish more, accomplish nothing…/ You have no right to be depressed/ You haven’t tried hard enough to like it” is a standout line from opening track “Fill in the Blank,” which debuted along with a clever lyric video. The clear single from the disc is a fitting intro for an album that pushes past a general level of emotion and explores mental health, societal norms, and anxiety.
Second track, “Vincent” starts off with a soft guitar waver that fades from pianissimo to forte in a harsh ebb and flow sonic wave. Other subtle guitar nuances join, adding to the rhythm in an intricate and creative display. The song slowly builds to an electric guitar layer about two minutes in that takes away some of that white space and leads into a catchy riff of sound. Finally, at about three minutes in, the lyrics kick in. “Half the time, I want to go home,” is the opening line. “I don’t need the complications/ I’m just in it for the feelings,” is a strong follow-up, before the social anxiety arises with, “I find it harder to speak/ When someone else is listening.”
“Destroyed by Hippie Powers” kicks in harshly with some clashing cymbals and heavy guitar noise before fading out into a tinny, plucky rhythm. This sonic texture is complicated in a simple sort of way, with consistently changing patterns that still fit within the same spectrum. It’s enticing. “I am freaking out in my mind/ In a house that isn’t mine” is a line that is probably way too commonly thought at house parties when one too many substances take hold.
The title “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs for Friends” creates the perfect balance between the happiness and pain that hit during high school years. The soft ballad track creates a vivid story-line that enters the inner turmoil, drugs, Jesus and all. “Filled with loathing and religious fervor/ I laid on my friend’s bedroom floor for an hour/ And tried not to piss my pants/ And then I saw Jesus/ And he said/to go against the world of my father.”
“Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is another standout single from Teens of Denial, and this track also comes with a lyric video through the view of a driving car. This one hits hard, with lyrics that accept the wrong but also don’t try to justify one’s actions. “This is not a good thing/ I don’t mean to rationalize/ Or try to explain it away/ It’s not okay/ Drunk drivers” This leads to the revelation, “I have become such a negative person,” a thought that might come up but is rarely shared out loud. Voices in your head, a struggle with self-image, and a fully thought-out solution to the issue arrive at “It doesn’t have to be like this.” The honesty here is ridiculously refreshing.
The mellow rock of “1937 State Park” is juxtaposed with poppy love vibes of following “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An).” This cute track explores the mind of a teenage boy on a date; it’s gold. A trumpet segment then starts out 8-minute “Cosmic Hero,” which builds and falls so many times that your heart is tired but incited in the best way possible.
“Joe Goes to School” ends things with a soft and sad horse story. “Held out my hand like there was something in it/ Managed to touch it/ It did not seem interested,” conveys a lot more than just the result of petting a horse. Find your own beauty and pain in these lyrics and examine these qualities within yourself; one thing this track allows you to do is feel fully and think deeply; let it happen!