Cigarettes After Sex and Their Continued Evolution

All images by Richard Gonzalez

All images by Richard Gonzalez

A word tossed around today when describing dreamy pop is vibe(s). It is used, sometimes haphazardly, as a catch-all term for the atmosphere bands attempt to create with their music. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the term, it often seems to focus on the style, rather than the substance of the music. It is a very delicate balance, often difficult to get right. It was this dynamic, style vs. substance, which was present when Cigarettes After Sex, a band with no shortage of style but not necessarily equal amounts of substance, performed a sold-out show at The Parish in Austin, Texas.

After grinding away in El Paso and Brooklyn for past five years and slowly building a following, Cigarettes After Sex, and specifically  founder/creative mind Greg Gonzalez, is seeing the fruits of that labor in 2017. In June the band released their self-titled debut album. After spending the summer touring Europe, the band returned to North America for a string of tour dates. From all this touring, the band was obviously in top form, operating like a well-oiled machine. The setlist was nearly the band’s entire discography to date with highlights from the albums such as “Flash,” “Each Time You Fall in Love,” and “Apocalypse.” “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” from their EP “I.” and their cover of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep on Loving You” were nice additions...

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Vocalist Greg Gonzalez’s style is low and steady, at times almost like a whisper, similar to that of Angus Stone or Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star, with many of the song's lyrics about the melancholy of love and heartbreak. He delivers his yearning croons on top of heavily reverbed drums, long, sprawling synths, and simple guitar chords and melodies. It is abundantly clear that this is a formula Gonzalez is very comfortable working in. However, over the course of the set, the repeated instances of this blueprint started to wear thin, which made the songs blend together. Once this happened the hook of intimacy these songs convey disappeared, rendering the songs rather one-dimensional.

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My perspective seemed to be in the minority however, as there were many devoted fans in attendance singing every lyric and soaking up every second. Also, make no mistake, the quality of the music is not what is in question, but rather why the songs are not elevated to new levels in a live setting. There is still plenty of time for Cigarettes After Sex to develop their live show to levels of say Slowdive or Beach House.