EP Review: Carpool – ‘For Nasal Use Only’

Posted: by The Editor

If Carpool’s 2020 record Erotic Nightmare Summer was a band finding their footing and firmly establishing themselves on solid ground, the group’s new EP For Nasal Use Only finds them fully exploring the landscape they’ve created, searching for every sound and idea to throw in and pushing the boundaries of what you’d expect from the group. Carpool still plays in a wild manner, with more sick riffs and drum fills to count, but they’ve added synths here and leaned more into sunny pop vibes, reflecting the lyrics that pick up the self-destructive behavior documented on ENS and take the logical—if difficult—next step of trying to change and lead a more sober, clearheaded life.

Opener “Anime Flashbacks” shows this different sound right out of the gates, with the synths taking more of a melodic lead that allows for some more off-kilter, mind bending interjections from the guitars and bass. The extended outro takes Carpool into some of their most cinematic territory to date, as the synth melody cuts through overtop of the band going absolutely nuts. It’s followed by “Quitting,” a title that takes on more than one meaning as it starts with a familiar topic for the band with Stoph Colasanto singing “so you walked out of your job today / told ‘em fuck off / and you spit in their face,” overtop a bassline and snaps that make it feel like a punky variation on “Summer Lovin’.” When the band kicks in with more huge synths and an infectious melody at “so you showed up at your birthday party / but when you get there you don’t know anybody / because the drugs don’t hit like they used to / and you’re introduced as a recluse” the title meaning has shifted with Colasanto singing “putting all my thoughts in another bad song / blacking out just to get through the night.” Things become almost unhinged in the bridge with the synths ditching the melodic lines for a frantic feeling reminiscent of so many of the riffs peppered throughout Erotic Nightmare Summer

“Tommy’s Car” kicks off as a more straightforward punk ripper before shifting into a repetition of “if everybody feels like shit / what makes me so different?” over a bouncing bassline and trippy synths. The tune swells and grows, with a melodic guitar line that feels almost reserved when compared to what you’d hear on “Beauty School Dropout” or “The Salty Song (Erotic Nightmare Summer).” It’s in that relative reserve of the guitar here (taking the role of the synth on much of the rest of the EP), that Carpool is able to show off their range, working through a gamut of ideas in “Tommy’s Car,” and ending with the nail-in-the-coffin line “if this was a movie I don’t think I’d even have a supporting part / said it a thousand times we’ve been fucked right from the start / that’s what I deserve”—the instruments dropping out so Colasanto delivers the final line to a suddenly silent room.

That silence is picked up by a bright acoustic playing a chord/chuck pattern so sunny and poppy that it could have spent months on TRL in the early 2000s. “Discretion of Possession (A Love Song)” is probably the most unexpected tune Carpool has put out yet, although the lyrics pull from the band’s usual territory, starting with “I lost it / discretion / a minor charge possession / relapsing / so easy / keep drinking til I’m queasy / I think I’m losing my shit again / pissing off all my friends / what’s a means to an end? / if intimacy’s a trend / why do I follow them?” From there, the tune flips with some more active picking on the guitars and such an uplifting, joyful feel that it’s hard not to smile as Colasanto sings “everything is better when you’re around / take my pessimism turn it upside down / I don’t know what took me so damn long to realize / everything looks better when I see it through your eyes” or “don’t believe in angels but you sure got your wings,” leading into a largely wordless hook accompanied by whistling. A two-minute turning point on the record, it feels like a moment of clarity or the sun bursting through the clouds, breaking through what seemed like an endless cycle of gloom.

That sunniness is contrasted with “Everyone’s Happy (Talk My Shit),” a song kicking off with riffs from different guitars that almost seem to be in conversation with each other, while the lyrics are packed with lines like “sorry that I got your brother high at your graduation / but you know I gotta be fucked up for every situation” and a chorus of “promise that you can’t depend on me / I’ll talk my shit / I’ll cause a scene / lots of drugs and liabilities / and all your friends are unimpressed with me.” Again, the song doesn’t stay too long with one sound as a slower breakdown leads into a palm-muted bridge, growing out of the repetition of “everyone’s happy if nobody’s pissed / don’t try and work it out / that’s just a swing and a miss / walking the tightrope / existential bliss / don’t wanna listen to your songs you’re so full of shit” into a massive rocker, and one of the record’s high points, with the band going nuts after Colasanto throws in ”god, I’m so done with feeling like this” on a pass through the repeated lines. It’s arguably the quintessential Carpool song—a perfect example of what this band can do when everything is clicking.

EPs can be a wide range of things for bands, from a place to dump some B-sides that maybe sound a little better after marinating half a year or so, a place to throw songs that a band really likes but can’t quite fit into another release, to a place for a band to expand their sound, trying out new ideas and refusing to be bound by strict rules of genre (why would they be?). All of these can be great, but it’s often the last that’s the most interesting, and Carpool’s willingness to throw in new instruments and styles pays off on For Nasal Use Only with tunes that can match the highest points of their previous records while also challenging your expectations of what could be a Carpool song. 

For Nasal Use Only is out this Friday 9/23 on Acrobat Unstable Records.

Disappointing / Average / Good / Great / Phenomenal

Aaron Eisenreich | @slobboyreject

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