Oh Cigarettes after Sex… y’all just go and be disarming with yo bad funky selves! I shouldn’t have expected anything else.
It’s been a crazy year here at Dolby Disaster, as very soon following the bevy of reviews I half-wittingly threw together in early May, I found one of my idols, Chris Cornell, fallen by the way of suicide. Appropriately, as I launched my “Dolby’s 12 Days of Soundgarden” segment during which each and every piece I mentioned had directly to do with the late frontman, the weather here in my native American Midwest turned cloudy and cool, almost as if the world itself were taking a breather, taking a step back to reflect on its own crazy carnage, or self-atone, as it were.
It’s been a crazy year too because of the whole Donald Trump thing, a predicament I obviously share with many millions, and concurrently, the veritable wave of righteous bands issuing albums this year from Grizzly Bear, to Wolf Parade, the New Pornographers, Real Estate, Fleet Foxes, Beck, Belle and Sebastian, Arcade Fire, At the Drive-in, Broken Social Scene and beyond and beyond. So consider this a spoiler alert: Cigarettes after Sex are coyly, coolly approximating another black self-titled album, The Velvet Underground, possibly better than anyone else in history (and indeed they do in fact remind me of the Lower Dens).
And… it’s all just so poignant. The amount of infinitely flabbergasting music emanating this year would kill a small horse and to top it off I discovered the website imvdb.com, where you can watch most all music videos ever recorded in history ad-free and annoying-post-song-segue-into-another-song-you-didn’t-search-for-free. One thing lacking, anyway, has been self-titled debuts, whereas now we finally have one from an act I’d formerly known for this excellent if a bit bare EP opener “Nothing’s Ever Gonna Hurt You Baby” (at which point yes I confess I thought the singer was female, whereas it’s actually one Greg Gonzalez, an individual who looks uncannily like Jidenna).
This album mozies along with considerable methodicalness while, somewhat like a friend once pointed out as being Supergrass’ distinct knack, constructing mind-bogglingly precocious chord progressions which always leave you guessing a little bit as to what’s going to come next, belying their simplicity. Most if not all of these songs are midtempo, very much hearkening to Mazzy Star. “Sweet” is my favorite song up to this point, with a beautifully delicate, collapsible pop infrastructure and, I’m gonna say it to some possible guff, I detect a slight Dodos influence, but then I did just listen to Visiter in its entirety on Saturday.
For all the pop acumen on display with frequency all over Cigarettes after Sex, though, it’s important to understand that the production is what hits you first, with its processional of “treated guitar,” to use the term of Tim Footman and Radiohead: Welcome to the Machine: Ok Computer and the Death of the Classic Album (so much for that, anyway). Wow, that’s more colons than Colon Blow. Anyway, like I was alluding to, I hate Radiohead comparisons but those jazzy blokes would probably be the primary productional reference point here, both for their moxie in calling to mind the aforementioned term and also just sounding like “No Surprises,” a song of heartbreaking beauty. At the end of the day, if anything is proven by Cigarettes after Sex, it’s that languishing is ever underrated.