Cigarettes After Sex
Partisan Records · October 25, 2019
The second studio album from Cigarettes After Sex, Cry, explores the sexual fantasies of vocalist, guitarist, and writer Greg Gonzalez with a level of vulnerability their fans may not have been looking for. Still, the mostly shallow lyrics are accompanied by familiar melodies, guitar lines, and synth beats that place the listener in a dreamland – so long as they don’t listen too closely.
The opening track, “Don’t Let Me Go,” is a preview to the soft, slow sound that continues throughout the album. It is a tranquil call to an old lover, but with such a focus on the past that it feels strange as the opening song. Its lyrics feel honest but one-dimensional, something that turns out to be a theme throughout Cry.
Frontman Gonzalez views the album as a “film” connecting the ideas of “romance, beauty, and sexuality,” according to Pitchfork. Cry will not disappoint if listeners are looking for explicit sexuality. In “Kiss It Off Me,” sexy meets sadness in a narrative that seems to over-sexualize the woman in question. With lyrics like “Drinkin’ a Slurpee / In a peach baseball cap / Fallin’ in my lap / You were so thirsty,” it is obvious what Gonzalez is aiming to get out of this relationship.
Next comes “Heavenly,” the album’s first single released back in August. It feels more authentic than the first two, as Gonzalez implores his lover, “Tell me it’s love, tell me it’s real / Touch me with a kiss.” However, the following song, “You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life,” removes the listener from the band’s traditional lullaby-feel with allusions to Playboy and tanning naked by a swimming pool.
“Touch” feels like an ode to lust and depression rather than romance. With simple lyrics, the only thing keeping the listener engaged is the same dream-pop style characterizing all their other songs. “Hentai” unsurprisingly expands on this desperation, as Gonzalez relays to the audience how he told a girl about a hentai video he watched and is now waiting for her to fall in love with him.
“Cry” and “Falling in Love” both feel more honest and romantic. The former, holding the same name as the LP, features Gonzalez being vulnerable about his flaws: “My heart just can’t be faithful for long / I swear I’ll only make you cry.” In the latter, he talks about going on dates and holding hands, a more wholesome approach to love than he has taken thus far into the album. The lyrics still lack depth, but they align better with the overall tone of the accompanying instrumentals.
The title of the final song, “Pure,” seems to juxtapose the very content within it. The lines between love and lust are blurred as he describes engaging sexually with a girl wearing a white bodysuit and soaking wet hair, displaying a level of openness that still feels empty. The final seconds of the song are instrumental, subtly reminding the listener how all of their songs sound essentially the same.
Gonzalez internalized the success of Cigarettes After Sex’s self-titled album of 2017 and clung to it. Cry does not display any progression or growth, but for the fans who were infatuated with Gonzalez’s dreamy, whispery voice and instrumentals that create an ethereal aura, Cry will transport them to this very same world. Those who deem it important to connect with the lyrics, however, might be wise to listen solely to the background music – or else, find another album.