I finally took a chance on something new and I came to that decision based solely on the name of a band and the cover of an album.
Cigarettes After Sex…
So yeah, I jammed the self-titled debut from this little known, but seems to be blowing up now, band from Brooklyn, NY by way of El Paso, TX. The cover of the album, stark black with grey lettering, was intriguing in its minimalism. Sorta reminded me of something Anton Corbijin would have done as well as the graphic design work of Peter Saville during his Factory Records days. I like this kind of stuff really.
This music is best described by using an older genre term named Slow-Core. One of those niche genres that seems to blend in with other stuff like Dream-Pop and Shoegaze, or even Lo-Fi. You really cannot pinpoint an exact style because like I said, it is severely blendable, but the Slow-Core moniker fits best because the music is very much on the mellow end of the spectrum.
This is for fans of Red House Painters and American Music Club. If you have never jammed the rollercoaster album by RHP or Everclear by AMC you are missing out on some the most melon collie stuff out there from Indie Rock 101. In particular, the exquisite music of RHP who are led by the brilliant Mark Kozelek (also of Sun Kill Moon).
So to begin, you start playing this album and track one, "K.", enters with a slow crawl laced with guitar echo that would not be out of place on some Post-Rock album. Acoustics seep through then bandleader Greg Gonzalez begins singing and right away, you should get an overall picture of where this is going; the lonesome sound of anger, pain, and anguish... Prepare yourself, it does not seem to ever end. It’s like an IV bag drip-feeding grape Robitussin into your veins and you slowly become numb to the outside all the while hallucinating on the robo. Moreover, when I say it never ends, it really does never end. A repetitive style should be a mark against it if not for the very well done atmosphere upon which the album is built. This is like that background noise in a dark room sorta thing. Again, I like that kind of stuff.
Gonzalez’s vocals also remind me of Dean Wareham from cult band Galaxy 500* which is awesome. They are soft, but higher pitched. This could be a total Goth album if Gonzalez sang with a baritone crooning style and the band used a drum machine. Man… Galaxy 500 were soooo good!
Picking individual tracks is hard when all seem same-ish, but a few stand out. There is the track “Apocalypse” where the band has a huge Mazzy Star feel crossed with perhaps the Cowboy Junkies. The lyrical lush of lovelorn guilt is nothing new in music, but done ok here. This is not on the level of say, Disintegration or Blood on the Tracks, but is nice and not entirely cheesy as most things go when bands try the ol’e heart on sleeve escape.
“Flash” is a song which actually brings a changeup briefly to the album. Synths and the flow of the vocals crossed with dreamy guitars are a nice contrast to the colors drawn up. If you had to present this to someone who is hearing-impaired, you would maybe have to use swaths of black and dark purple with a slight mix of grey and a flickering of white to help get the feeling expressed to the individual through sensory sight. If you have Synesthesia, I hope you enjoy the experience!
Tracks “Truly” and “John Wayne” both have similar soundscapes that pitter-patter along with a river like flow and the reverb on both guitars and vocals are soothing. The accompaniment of acoustics gives them a bit more of a crunch and the ending fadeouts are good bookends. As well, closing track “Young & Dumb” is funny to hear with its snarky lyrics fighting against the backdrop of the seriousness you have been hearing this whole time. It’s a slap in the face if you are paying attention and that’s hilarious to me.
Time to go!
This album was apparently recorded in just a few days in an isolated space. The music seems to bounce off the walls and that’s one of the nice touches that can only come from the surroundings of a unique ambient setting. While the album could have used a bit more change-ups in overall tone and flow, it is still welcoming and would be nice to listen with good headphones while trying to sleep. Autonomous sensory meridian response junkies should give this a listen.
I cannot say much more about the album, it is too samey same. However, for once that is ok. The band gets one free pass this time. This is a fresh return to a more strung along style of music that hasn’t been great since the 90’s. With all the exposure they are currently getting, and the analyzing, I am hopeful it will encourage the band to step out a bit more and shuffle their style.
(*Listen to Galaxy 500 please. Just do it!)