There are few bands that carry the aesthetic quality through their music, lyricism, and image. Cigarettes After Sex – a band name that sounds like it should be a bio for an edgy kid’s Tumblr page – deal exclusively in delicious melodies, romanticised lyricism and an easy dream-pop moved that plods along gently and soothingly.
Having found success through their self-titled debut album back in 2017, its follow-up ‘Cry’ poses obvious questions that every band must face on a second record: do we stay the same, or do we tackle new topics? Do we
Greg Gonzalez, whose vocals are repeatedly referred to as androgynous, are wonderfully soft and reserved. That matched with the timid percussion and floaty guitars across nine tracks provide a delightfully airy atmosphere that fails to offer much progression, but is equally pleasant and tranquil sonically in its own right.
Lyrically, Gonzalez is at times poetic, and at others quite literal, while always adopting a rather serious tone: even a song like ‘Hentai’, dedicated to a Japanese form of anime pornography, is very literal in its meaning, describing a hentai video he once watched “About a girl who as soon as she made you cum.” At times, his lyrics are slightly impenetrable (absolutely no pun intended whatsoever), with descriptions of overly simplified romantic encounters (“And the TV is on / When we make love because / We get carried away / We don’t care anyway” on ‘Pure’) and intended hot and steamy love (“Posing as a Playboy centrefold / You could be my Penthouse pet, I know” on ‘You’re The Only Good Thing In My Life’) being the common qualities of his lyrics, and at times a little too on the nose.
To be honest, the nature of Cigarettes After Sex means that you’d be forgiven for not really being conscious of Gonzalez‘s lyrics – the entire vibe of the band isn’t one that makes you want to learn the words to and scream at the top of your lungs. The aircon is on full and the mood is thoroughly chilled throughout, creating a meditational, beautifully atmospheric soundscape that’s relaxed enough to rival ‘lo-fi hip-hop radio’.
The real issue, however, comes in a lack of any real progression on album two. ‘Cry’ isn’t a bad record, but it doesn’t really offer anything new, and its praise is earnt through its consistency of sound to their debut. A solid, yet unambitious follow-up.