A Journal Of The Dark Arts
The timeless interior of the Crystal Ballroom took on a cozy, romantic air with Cigarettes After Sex’s spellingbinding modern take on romantic rock ‘n roll.
Writing for The Guardian;, author Maureen Rice describes the perplexing state of Love In The 21st Century. “Love in the 21st century is both the same and different; mutating interestingly as we try to reconfigure it for lives led at a different speed, but its power is undiminished, its grip on our hearts and record collections as strong as ever.”
That was written back in 2003. Love and romance have only become more complicated, more confusing in the ensuing years, with the onset of widespread Internet dating; the increasing pressures and travails of late capitalism; the shifting landscape of gender and sexuality; the weirdly intimate window into interior lives that is social media. In many ways, Love is unrecognizable from when the golden age of romantic rock ‘n roll was being penned.
Except it isn’t. People still crave connection, companionship, intimacy. We still get crazy over new infatuations. We still get stung when jealousy plunges its poison barb into our tender flesh. It’s just that love is being buffeted by all of these external forces, molding it into new shapes and sizes, sometimes breaking it in the process.
El Paso, Texas by way of Brooklyn, NY‘s Cigarettes After Sex write love songs. Let’s be clear about that right from the start. Bittersweet love songs might be a more accurate descriptor, though. Consider the opening lines of “Affection,” an early single rolled out towards the beginning of Cigarettes After Sex’s set.
I know that you say I get mean when I’m drinking,
But then again sometimes I get really sweet
So what does it mean if I tell you to go fuck yourself
Or if I say that you’re beautiful to me
Cigarettes After Sex’s lyrics are often tailor-made for bitter, ironic cross-stitch samplers; stick ‘n poke tattoos; enamel pins. They are the personification of the sad boy/sad girl aesthetic. Musically, you’d never know it. The causticness of disappointment, baggage, and complicated relationships get subsumed into Cigarette After Sex’s crystalline nightside world, like some ageless ballroom dripping with chandeliers.
Which is exactly what the interior of the Crystal Ballroom looks like, appropriately. The ballroom is a holdover from the psychedelic ’60s but given the tiniest bit of a modern update. It gives the feeling of stepping out of time, entering another world. Classic rock ‘n roll with a slightly modern twist is a very appropriate setting for Cigarettes After Sex’s slo-mo romantic rock ‘n roll, like Roy Orbison in suspended animation.
Over the span of a tight one hour set, Cigarettes After Sex laid out sparkling, transportive versions of most songs you’d want to hear. They’re still a relatively new band, having only released one full-length and a handful of singles and EPs. With such a limited discography, you’re guaranteed to hear most songs you’d want to hear. Cigarettes After Sex didn’t disappoint in that regard. Lovely, meditative versions of “Sweet,” their cover of “Keep On Loving You” by REO Speedwagon, “Apocalypse” and more. “Never Going To Hurt You” was about the only single in absence, although i was a few minutes late to the nearly sold out show, so there’s a chance i just didn’t hear it.
CaS’ take on “Keep On Loving You” is a perfect microcosm of both this Sunday performance in Portland, Oregon as well as Cigarette After Sex’s charm as a whole. Greg Gonzalez and co. take the slightly histrionic, over-the-top epic emotiveness of REO Speedwagon‘s Power Pop original and strip it down to the bone, until it becomes almost a zen haiku. The gospel choruses are replaced with shimmering guitars and Gonzales’ narcotic vocals in his distinctive near-falsetto.
Cigarettes After Sex dwell in the same musical orbit as other love-torn rock and roll recreationists like Lana del Rey, Beach House, or even early revivalists like Chris Isaak circa Wicked Games. Like those artists, Cigarettes After Sex inhabit their own snowglobe universe, intimate and hushed, chilled yet still somehow warm. CaS seem a bit more immediate, however, less likely to atomize in deep space. This is especially true live, where the near-capacity audience surrendered to Gonzales’ ethereal vocals and hypnotic guitar playing.
It’s a good sign. A sign that, for all of the confusion, certain things are universal and eternal. Like love. And good music.
Cigarettes After Sex are currently on tour in anticipation of their second upcoming full-length, Cry, which is due out Oct. 25 on Partisan Records. If you’re living somewhere where Cigarettes After Sex are playing, DO NOT SLEEP! This band’s only going to keep getting bigger and bigger.
edit: corrected for factual errors. Cigarettes After Sex currently reside in Brooklyn. Guitarist Philip Tubbs is no longer in the band.
Oct 1, 2019 – Oakland, CA – Fox Theater
Oct 3, 2019 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern – (sold out)
Oct 4, 2019 – Santa Ana, Ca – Yost Theater – (sold out)
Oct 5, 2019 – San Diego, CA – The Observatory North Park – (sold out)
Oct 7. 2019 – Phoenix, AZ – The Van Buren
Oct 8, 2019 – Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theater
Oct 10, 2019 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theater
Oct 11, 2019 – Kansas City, MO – The Truman
Oct 12, 2019 – Omaha, NE – Slowdown
Oct 13, 2019 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
Oct 15, 2019 – Madison, WI – The Sylvee
Oct 16, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall – (sold out)
Oct 17, 2019 – Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
Oct 18, 2019 – Covington, KY – Madison Theater
Oct 19, 2019 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue
Oct 21, 2019 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall – (sold out)
Oct 23, 2019 – New York, NY – Webster Hall – (sold out)
Oct 24, 2019 – Brooklyn, NY – Brooklyn Steel – (sold out)
Oct 25, 2019 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club – (sold out)
Oct 26, 2019 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer
Oct 27, 2019 – Boston, MA – House Of Blues
Nov 2, 2019 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso – (sold out)
Nov 3, 2019 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
Nov 7, 2019 – Brussels, Belgium – Cirque Royal – (sold out)
Nov 8, 2019 – Paris, France – Olympia – (sold out)
Nov 9, 2019 – Benidorm, Spain – Primavera 20th Anniversary Weekender
Nov 11, 2019 – Barcelona, Spain – Sala Apolo
Nov 12, 2019 – Barcelona, Spain – Sala Apolo
Nov 14, 2019 – Milan, Italy – Alcatraz
Nov 16, 2019 – Zürich, Switzerland – Plaza – (sold out)
Nov 17, 2019 – Zürich, Switzerland – Plaza
Nov 18, 2019 – Vienna, Austria – Arena
Nov 19, 2019 – Vienna, Austria – Arena
Nov 20, 2019 – Prague, Czech Republic – Roxy – (sold out)
Nov 22, 2019 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Den Grå Hal – (sold out)
Nov 23, 2019 – Berlin, Germany – Tempodrome
Nov 25, 2019 – Cologne, Germany – Palladium
Nov 27, 2019 – Manchester, UK – Albert Hall
Nov 28, 2019 – London, UK – Shepherds Bush Empire – (sold out)
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