by Kara Kokinos
After a week of processing the mildly devastating end to some budding affection, I walked into Brighton Music Hall braced for impact. This was gonna hurt, and it was gonna hurt bad. Throw some difficulty with the box office into the mix and your girl was more in the mood to mosh away the heartache than anything else. Needless to say, that would not be appropriate for the tone of the night. If all this seems a smidge melodramatic, please take into account that the slow, romantic song is when all of the couples come out of the woodwork for a decent dose of PDA and the American Idol hopefuls start to flex their vocal chords – when an entire set is packed full of them, it can be more than mildly exhausting. Thankfully, I had a fellow jaded-but-laughing-about-it partner in crime, WRBB contributor Ingrid Angulo there gagging along with me.
But then Cigarettes After Sex hit the stage. No opener, no introduction, just some ambient sounds with pretty landscapes rumbling in the background before the band launched into the aptly named ‘Sweet.’ Cigarettes After Sex has the ability to make even the most jaded of cynics (namely, me) into a swooning, doe eyed romantic in only a few bars. They have you looking over your shoulder, waiting for the meet-cute that will change your life or, if you’re lucky enough to be with a partner, bring about the butterflies you felt when you first kissed the person you’re entangled with. The romantic black and white footage set the mood for a night of romance and mystery, presumably plucked from some obscure film noir by singer and movie buff Greg Gonzalez. There is no surprise in the fact that the band’s music has been licensed for the ever popular A Handmaid’s Tale – even the band will tell you that everything about their music has a ring of the cinematic. It is through this radiant ambience that the band forms a sonic cradle of sorts – letting you dwell in moments padded with softness and warmth while a rocking sensation soothes you. It is masterful songwriting in its controlled nature and feels deceptively simplistic.
While the 2012 EP I. features artist-molding track ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’ and the night’s closer ‘Dreaming of You,’ the official release of their eponymous album has really let the band breathe new life into their set. Even setting covers and singles aside, there’s so much to the album that feels like the band is hitting their stride. There’s no throwaway track, no lulls – in the set or the album. Perhaps this is due to the nature of the songwriting or perhaps it’s the slightly tongue-in-cheek nature of Greg Gonzalez’s lyricism. It reaches through to the less idealistic of us – the absurdity of love and lust and their workings are fully acknowledged. While it often functions as the butt of the joke, the purity of the emotions remains paramount. And what are cynics but those who have loved too fully? Whatever it is that captures you, an atmosphere is established and maintained. You will submit to their crooning and enjoy it. Mission accomplished, Cigs, mission accomplished.