Replay: Car Seat Headrest’s ‘Disjecta Membra’ is a Buried Treasure

Writer Matt Sorce reflects on the not-so-long-lost treasure of “Disjecta Membra,” the B-sides collection band Car Seat Headrest released alongside their album “Nervous Young Man,” which was deleted off of streaming services by the band.

It’s my junior year of high school, I’m sitting in study hall and Spotify’s autoplay has just introduced me to what would become my favorite band, Car Seat Headrest.

Immediately hooked by the band’s poetic lyricism and lo-fi sound, I began listening to their entire discography — but one record was harder to find than the rest.

Released alongside “Nervous Young Man” in 2013, “Disjecta Membra” was a B-sides album consisting of covers and outtakes. The record was only available to those who purchased “Nervous Young Man” for over $5 on Bandcamp the day it was released, Car Seat Headrest’s Manager Mike Scrafford wrote in an email to The Phoenix.

But its limited release window didn’t stop it from becoming my favorite album.

An eruption of guitars in “Endpiece” boisterously kicks off the record. However, the 40-second track ends just as fast as it begins.

“Please Mr. Pilot” is a track I always liked but hadn’t appreciated until last summer. At the time, there were multiple deaths in my family and it was comforting to hear the grief I felt expressed by others.

“I can’t go to the cemetery / And break bread over your body / Why should I bear my soul to strangers / When I never bared my soul to you,” lead vocalist Will Toledo sings.

A feel-good break from Car Seat Headrest’s traditionally despondent discography, “Sound Man/Low Fidelity” has remained my favorite song by the band since my first listen.

It’s a lively-yet-safe lo-fi rock track that stands out from their other songs, which typically evoke feelings of sadness or introspection. The lyrics aren’t as deep or personal as other songs on the album, focusing on life as an audio engineer, allowing listeners to decompress.

Likewise, “Drunk on a Work Night” is an impromptu interlude I found more fun than serious,  despite actually having a somber tone.

Marked by Toledo’s unrestrained screams as he vents his frustrations from his car, the sporadic vocals and unintentionally humorous opening line made it increasingly difficult to take seriously — until I began my first job as a cashier.

“I think I’m about to be pissed,” Toledo says in the song’s opening.

Only then did I understand the satisfaction of using my car to release the day’s frustrations, fueled by obnoxious customers, managers and whatever else decided to go wrong.

“Sinner” is unlike any song the band has produced. Uncompromising in its self-deprecating lyrics and hauntingly slow chords, it never fails to give me chills.

The song’s explicit religious allusions relate to my upbringing, having grown up in a Catholic household. While my beliefs have evolved, the fear of final judgment, deeply ingrained in my early years, still scares me. The uncertainty of an afterlife is vividly depicted in the song’s chorus.

“All the angels sing / You’ll pay for everything / You are a sinner / A man of the Earth,” Toledo sings.

The record’s penultimate track “KS” reflects themes of longing and distance between the speaker and their good friend — a sentiment I deeply connect with, having moved from my hometown in eighth grade.

Listening to “KS” years later was initially an unhealthy reminder of the countless days spent wishing to go back. However, it validated those feelings, as I realized someone else felt the same, albeit under different circumstances.

“Raised in a graveyard / Strange this displacement / I will take great pains / To get to those great plains,” Toledo sings.

The album’s closing track “Unfinished: Pain Star (If heaven is full of people)” is a slow crescendo of unintelligible shouts which only grow in intensity, creating a cathartic conclusion to the album.

While it may look like the end, the song serves as a beginning to a much longer narrative.

Released three years prior than 2010’s “2,” “…then it will be exactly the same on earth” was the intended continuation of the celestial-themed journey, apparent in its brief interpolation at the end of “Unfinished: Pain Star (if heaven is full of people).”

Combining the songs is my ideal way to listen. The slow build-up of helpless cries in the first half as it fades into the quiet aura of part two is as satisfying as releasing a deep breath and feeling the weights come off your shoulders.

“Replay” is a recurring music review column 

Featured image courtesy of Matador Records

Matt Sorce

Matt Sorce