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Cigarettes After Sex Album Review: Teary, yet dry

Photo by Ali Yahya.

Review of Cigarettes After Sex’ new album “Cry” released october 2019

The opening is slurry guitars. The middle—even more slurry guitars. Ending is lazy, leisurely, and, yes, slurry. At a theoretical glance, one might think this signifies a slow-motionness of the increasingly fragmented self, and therefore a perfect outlet for the lonely ones. But that’s a sort of ruse. 

The name of the band itself implies that there are at least two people in the picture. It goes further with the song titles (“Don’t Let Me Go,”“You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life,”“Touch”); I can already anticipate people’s or critics’ ruminations on the “remnants of lost youths and heartbreak nights, the album-cover symbol of the black & white thinking of the linguistics of youthful love,”and all the other poetic extravaganza. That means there’s not a lot to work with if a lonely one is lured by the shade of the visuals, the despair of the title, and that slurriness of sound. A bit of a disappointment, personally.

The music is very spacious, but it’s a space between a ‘you’ and an ‘I,’ whereas in loneliness, the ‘I’ becomes the space. Their music is a cigarette-fumed space, two people secretly and intimately sharing a smoke in between metaphorical sheets, “storms on beaches / with all the lights off,” and all the other things the imagery of romance must convey. But also, musically, they require space. So much post-coital smoke needs an outlet to evaporate, without polluting our slurry ears and minds, and their music runs in a milky-way circle of seemingly eternal expanse. Melodically minimalistic, and yet extreme in scope.

This kind of minimalism can be a blessing for an over-stimulated, restless psyche, but it can also be quite draining. In the case of a band such as The Cure (or at least their Disintegration era), recurring themes and slow momentum add spookiness, but Cigarettes After Sex make their music, at best familiar and bedroomily cosy, while at worst complacent and predictable. They’re a bit like the xx, but without the male-female exchange of a breath of fresh air. On the contrary—there is so much airiness, one’s breath gets lost along the way.

At the end of the day, does that make their music warm or boring? The two are not mutually exclusive, and their alignment (or lack thereof) depends on one’s own relationship to the smoke-space, and to the people (or lack thereof) behind it.

Being a lonely one, I didn’t find much to hang onto. Their branches seem brittle.

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