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.



Album Review – Cigarettes After Sex

Cigarettes After Sex -‘Cigarettes After Sex.’ (Partisan Records)

In the year that two of the British shoegazing acts of the 1990s, Ride and Slowdive, release their first albums in over two decades, along come an American act from the same ilk to give us a debut album that suggests that the sound the Americans dubbed dreampop is continuing to produce absolutely wonderful sounds. There’s also echoes of slow-core type bands like Low and Mazzy Star, with a nod to the 1980s 4AD roster of acts like the Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil with the shimmering melancholy within.

That’s not to dismiss Cigarettes After Sex as some kind of retro sound. This is a fresh take on it all, and the first thing that draws you in is the androgynous voice of Greg Gonzalez. It’s slow and dreamy music, with a definite noir undertone- as if David Lynch had decided that a shoegaze-dreampop band was needed for one of his projects.

A number of the tracks on this album have been doing the rounds for a while – opening track ‘K’ first appeared as a single back in late 2015 – but the reality is a very cohesive whole, without a duff track among them. Even more reassuring in this age of streaming is how this is an album that can be played from start to finish, with ‘Each Time You Fall In Love’ and ‘John Wayne’ amongst the highlights.

Without wishing to descend into hyperbole, I genuinely expect this album to do well on the year-end lists (hey! Don’t you realise we’re going to have to start thinking about this when summer’s over?) and it will deserve to be there. To paraphrase Wilco, I can’t help wondering if they are trying to break listeners’ hearts. But what a soundtrack to be heartbroken to…