Gig review – Cigarettes After Sex

Cigarettes After Sex

Glasgow Queen Margaret’s Union, November 14 2017

‘So what’s the deal with this band, then?’ asks my +1 for the evening.

What’s the deal, indeed? Cigarettes After Sex’s eponymous debut has never been far from the turntable or streaming device since its release in June of this year. Greg Gonzalez and co. have produced an album that shows the meeting of Slowdive shoegaze with the slowcore of Low and the fragile beauty of Trembling Blue Stars. Driving along the Scottish Central Belt from Edinburgh to Glasgow alone in the dark on the motorway it was the perfect soundtrack.

So, for the gig itself?

Oh dear. Well, Gonzalez’s beautiful, androgynous voice sounds as good as it does on record, and the songs are faithfully replicated…but there’s something missing. Anyone coming to a Cigarettes After Sex show expecting AC/DC pyrotechnics would have been deluded and it wouldn’t have worked. The thing is that there is little or no stage presence from the band. ‘K’ and ‘Each Time You Fall In Love’ and other songs just seem to be as they are on record and a feeling that it might as well be the album playing on a stereo.

Sure there are moody black and white films projected on a screen behind with images of buildings, snow falling, girls crying. It might be appropriate, but somehow it feels as cliched in the situation as pyrotechnics at a RAWK gig.

Depressingly, I am forced to conclude that at this point Cigarettes After Sex are nothing to get excited about as a live act. There’s little or no interaction with the crowd, and I’m just left feeling flat.

…And I drove home, and listened to the album yet again. It’s still a brilliant album, but the live execution was a damp squib.

Pity.

 

Interview – My Vitriol

As My Vitriol head out on tour across the UK, 17 Seconds catches up with lead singer Som Wardner to find out what the band have been up to, and learns about being moved to tears by George Martin, dealing with stress and how you’d have to be mad to want to be as famous as Michael Jackson…

17 Seconds: Hi Som – how are you, where are you and what’s the weather like?

Som Wardner: We just got back from a festival Barcelona which was lovely and sunny, even though it was almost November!
The political climate was pretty hot too… But I managed to pick up a chest infection (maybe from people smoking indoors), which hopefully I’ll get over in time for the next shows!

17 Seconds: What have you been up to since we heard from you last?

Som Wardner: Depends when you heard from us last! The band has been very active for the last year or so. We self-produced a limited release album at the end of last year [Secret Sessions, available from their website], which had amazing responses from the fanbase, so we have played quite a few shows this year.

17 Seconds : Is it the same line-up of My Vitriol?

Som Wardner: Yes, but Tatia Starkey is away on maternity leave currently. Russell from Bloc Party is filling in on bass in London for her. All the band, expect me, have had kids over the last few years! I’m quite behind on all that. I guess the songs are my kids for now.
17 Seconds: How do you feel the music industry has changed over the last fifteen years? How has it impacted on you and the band?

Som Wardner: Since the Finelines release [in 2001], the landscape of the music industry kept changing dramatically every few years. Labels, distributers and magazines kept folding. There wasn’t even a Myspace, let alone a Facebook or Twitter when we first released anything. Minidiscs didn’t last long and CDs have disappeared. I guess downloading hit alternative rock pretty hard. But technology has allowed a lot of advantages too. Even though I miss the music store experience, it’s great to be able to directly get to the people who like your music. I also used to have to take 12 or so guitars on the road – as most of the songs are in different tunings, but now I only take one and a spare, as my guitar can change tunings itself. We don’t use amplifiers anymore either, just direct to the PA.

17 Seconds: Tell us what we can expect from the forthcoming live shows.

Som Wardner: London has a ‘Finelines /Between the Lines’ special playing all the tracks from those albums. We’d been asked to do that for years, and we finally got round to it. We will play some rarities and covers we have never played before too, and some of the tracks from the double album will be played for the last time ever.

17 Seconds: Are you working on new music, perhaps a new album?

Som Wardner: We have around 6 tracks recorded which we haven’t released yet. And I can’t wait to record the new ones I’ve written, especially one with the working title “Alone” which is one of my favourites.

17 Seconds: What are your best and worse memories of being in My Vitriol?

We have definitely had our fair share of both good and bad luck. Recent good memories were the tour with Muse last year across Eastern Europe which was really fun. Playing the main stage of Reading & Leeds, when the year before I was just camping out and giving people the demo which changed everything for us. Hearing it on the radio when Steve Lamacq played it for the first time, was pretty exciting too. Playing Top of the Pops those couple of times was pretty cool as I grew up seeing a lot my favourite rock bands do the same in the 90s, but we chose to play live and Ravi managed to break his kick drum skin somehow. It’s never happened before, or since! The worst memories would be ending up in hospital; both times I’ve made a record with stress related issues. I need to stop that.

Inset: My Vitriol appear on Top Of The Pops for the first time with their Top 40 debut ‘Always: Your Way.’ Note: despite Som’s self-deprecating t-shirt which reads ‘One Hit Wonder’ the band would achieve another two top forty hits.

17 Seconds: Was there a particular moment when you realised you were famous?

Som Wardner: Fame is a rather subjective concept, I guess. ‘Famous’ would be a term I’d apply for Jesus or Michael Jackson. Most people who don’t really like rock music won’t have a clue who we are… and I quite like that. Anyone would like to be appreciated for their hard work, but it would be awful to be hounded as much as Michael Jackson was, you’d have to be crazy to want that. A household name was never the plan with a name like My Vitriol. My what?

17 Seconds: What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at a live show?

Som Wardner: The power fuse of the whole venue blew on the very last note of the show. That was great timing.

17 Seconds: What music are you currently listening to?

Som Wardner: Everything from the Beatles to Lana to some electronic stuff. But I do listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts / talk radio too. The politics of the world today is crazy but fascinating.

17 Seconds: Who would you most like to collaborate with?

Som Wardner: If George Martin was still around I would have loved to have worked with him. He was an incredible arranger. The string section on ‘Eleanor Rigby’ moved me to tears when I was around 8 years old… and I’ll never forget that moment.

17 Seconds:  What are your plans for the next year?

Som Wardner: We have devoted most of next year to recording new material. Quite excited to experiment with the new ideas! I’m considering a hip-hop / House direction. That was a joke. Maybe.

My Vitriol play Edinburgh Summerhall on November 8, and then on tour. The band’s latest album Secret Sessions is available online.

Track of the day #50: Steven Wesley Guiles

It’s a privilege writing a blog and getting so many submissions, but there are occasions when I get irritated about the sense of entitlement from some who seem to think they have a God-given right to have their entire roster reviewed in detail before you so much as pick up your child from school or feed the cat.

So it was quite touching to have an email from California from one Steven Wesley Guiles, who promised not to send any follow-ups and acknowledged he felt he was sending an email into the void.

Because ‘Misunderstanding’ is absolutely lovely. It has echoes of Sufjan Stevens and Bon Iver, and also reminds me a bit of Death Cab For Cutie and The Decemberists. Also the lyric video reminds me of that Great American Roadtrip I have yet to take (money being perhaps the biggest factor).

His third album Hallelujah Heartbreak came out last month and you can check it out via his bandcamp here. Seriously, you should, it’s lovely stuff.

 

Track of the day #49: Go! Team

This might seem an odd thing to admit, but I think I’m probably a bit guilty of taking the Go! Team for granted. They’ve been around for well over a decade now, and every so often they release a new track that makes me (and probably others too) go ‘I must listen to these guys more often.’

On January 19 they’ll release their new album Semi-Circle (you can find the tracklisting further down this post) and the first track to do the rounds is the title track ‘Semicircle Song.’

According to NPR, in making Semi-Circle, bandleader Ian Parton gathered samples across the Midwest, with an emphasis on capturing the voices of young musicians. He also reassembled the lineup of The Go! Team responsible for their breakthrough, Thunder, Lightning, Strike. ‘Semicircle song’ is manages to combine the group’s usual everything including the kitchen sink approach to produce a song that is a three-minute pop marvel. Utterly gorgeous. Like sunshine on your stereo. As the winter nights draw in, that’s something we need more than ever…

  1. “Mayday”
  2. “Chain Link Fence”
  3. “Semicircle Song”
  4. “Hey!”
  5. “The Answer’s No — Now What’s the Question?”
  6. “Chico’s Radical Decade
  7. “All the Way Live”
  8. “If There’s One Thing You Should Know”
  9. “Tangerine / Satsuma / Clementine”
  10. “She’s Got Guns”
  11. “Plans Are Like a Dream U Organise”
  12. “Getting Back Up”