Cigarettes After Sex – Cry
Editor’s note: This album is very raw and honest depicting various forms of physical intimacy – for that reason, it may not be for everyone. Below is our contributor Taylor Odishaw-Dyck’s exploration of the record:
This album starts with a warm and bitter foreground. The band’s minimalist approach, which has underlined this project from the start, lulls the listener into a full sense of dazed vulnerability. Mixed by Craig Silvey, and mastered by Greg Calbi, the performers smoothly swoop in and out of verses, choruses, and instrumental releases by adding and subtracting lead guitar and lead vocals, guiding us through a stimulating multi-sensory journey.
During the intro of track one, “Don’t Let Me Go”, tasteful amounts of reverb are evidently glazed on top of Greg Gonzalez’ lead guitar runs. The chorus hook rings: “…come to me now; don’t let me go; stay by my side…”, intentionally setting a gentle and peaceful tone for the record. Listening to track one, I am led to imagine being trapped in a glass bus stop during a rainstorm, smoking a wet cigarette, and thinking about my distant lover … and I can’t help but wonder if I make her as happy as she makes me.
Track two begins with a dissonant synth patch, and simplistic drum patterns. When Greg’s vocals tip-toe in with trademark subtlety, the track begins to take its full shape. His imagery captures my imagination by painting an emotional catastrophe. Mr. Gonzalez, the primary composer and founder of the project, tends to reminisce on the beauty and uncertainty of passionate, fleeting love affairs. How do I know this for sure? Well, the chorus of “Kiss It Off Me” says it all: “…If you’re going to break my heart; this is a good start; kiss it off me…”.
“Heavenly” is the third track off this nine-track record. The suave nature of its bass line possesses my senses with a gentle nativity. I feel a more optimistic sensation from this song. I say ‘feel’ and not ‘hear’ because their style of music is most appreciated by a sympathetically receptive audience. The feelings exuded by Gonzalez’ vocal lines, Randy Miller’s bass tones, Jacob Tomsky’s percussion, and Phillip Tubbs’ chilling keyboards are the wings which carry this record off the ground and into the soaring (and crashing) hearts of theirmillions of daily listeners.
Track four begins to reveal the hopeless romantic side of the group’s personality. The title, “You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life” reminds me of the most unstable moments of my early-twenties. Falling in love has a way of bringing out our most caring side, and our most possessive side. If we are not careful, our world begins to revolve around the object of our new-found love. When things begin to change, as they always do, it’s clear we set ourselves up for heartbreak. And I’m sure there is a colloquial thesaurus somewhere in Gonzalez’ hometown which lists ‘heartbreak’ synonymous to ‘Cigarettes After Sex’.
“Touch”, track five, carries an instantly arousing aura. This album, and especially this song, satisfies the itch of every listener who fell in love with the group’s previous releases. We have waited for another album since June of 2017, and our wait feels worth it with the quality of these compositions. “Oh, I missed you and I cried…” once again puts us into the emotional captivity of Gonzalez’ strongest memories and most honest romanticisms. In an interview with Alisha Mughal of Exclaim! Magazine, Gonzalez explained that the music he makes “…became a reaction to the life that happened.”
The sixth track on the album is entitled “Hentai” … which, if you look up its meaning, will both shock and entice you. I won’t give away the definition (I’ll save you the adventure), but let’s just say it seems like a bit much for a black-and-white, light-rock band from El-Paso, Texas. When you listen to the song, however, and hear Gonzalez use it in a sentence, you can sort of understand the meaning of the word to him, as he sings: “There was a Hentai video that I saw; told you about the night that we first made love…”. Maybe Greg’s view of making love was tainted at some point in his life; perhaps his insecurities are sometimes exposed in unconventional ways. Whether this kinky reference is entirely necessary remains unclear, but I have learned not to doubt the writing process of the industry’s lyrical giants.
Track seven is the title track of the record, so you know it carries some weight with it. Cry, the song, is much like Cry, the record; comfortably cautious and helplessly in love. Being cautious usually means looking out for yourself, but sometimes it means looking out for your oblivious lover. “I swear, I’ll only make you cry…” swoons Gonzalez in the chorus of this indie-pop spectacle. To me, these lyrics insinuate that he views himself in a more realistic light than his lovestruck sweetheart does.
With one song, we sense that all hope is lost, and then the tables are turned in the following track… Track eight, “Falling in Love”, resembles a romantic lullaby; it’s the type of song you would put on right before some really hot makeup ***. And don’t forget the cheese. Every romance song needs a gouda-filled center. There is a particular lyric which is so soft and so predictable, I’m afraid I cannot include it in this article. BUT, if you are the type of person who appreciates some good wine and cheese, you have all the more reason to go and listen to this record in it’s entirety. (Link included below)
Now we are about to round out the album … If we’re talking about cigarettes after sex, this would be after the sex, after the cigarette … during the additional sex. “Pure” is the final destination of this sensual masterpiece. This song’s lyrics are painfully erotic; I would not recommend taking this song home to your parents (!). Gonzalez vividly describes details which can only be understood in the world under the sheets. The title is important though; whereas previous songs have revealed questionable perspectives on being in love (i.e., Hentai; You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life), this track expresses the purity of unbridled intimacy.
I have been known for being brutally honest in my writing, so much so that a recent piece on Nick Murphy’s latest album did not go to press. But the nice thing about this album is it’s all positives. Though I briefly questioned the necessity of titling a song “Hentai”, Gonzalez’ lyrics and melodies are beyond ideal. Every sentiment is felt as heavy as the heart of a beat-down lover. Hats off (and pants off) to the casual bliss perpetuated by Cigarettes After Sex’ second LP Cry, which could go down in history as the best soft rock record of 2019.