Greg Gonzalez is, evidently, very much a believer in not attempting to fix what isn’t broken. It’s not just that Cry sounds like the first Cigarettes After Sex album – it sounds like a tribute to the first Cigarettes After Sex album. Lads, have we remembered the whispered, androgynous vocals? Have we got the pace sepulchral? Stop playing chords, dammit, we need spidery guitar lines!
Nevertheless, Cigarettes After Sex – if you prefer melody and softness to rhythm and abrasion – are one of the most sonically pleasurable groups of recent years. These are sturdily constructed songs, which would work in other arrangements, and they are presented in such a way that the instrumentation ornaments rather than overwhelms them. Heavenly might be the nearest we get to evolution – it owes at least as much to mid-80s MOR as it does to Mazzy Star, albeit MOR with the rock and mullets removed – but the lack of innovation doesn’t matter when you’ve got melodies as simple and lovely as the title track to fall back on.
Gonzalez’s failure to evolve lyrically is more of an issue. The first album and the early EPs were, apparently, inspired by heartbreak. He’s said the second album is autobiographical, too, which suggests he’s having more of a wallow than is seemly in your late 30s. His writing still reads like that of a man who doesn’t have a filter – not in a good way.
He evidently spends a lot of time using his computer with one hand: Hentai opens with him reminiscing about a first encounter with one woman, an encounter he chose to spend telling her about some porn he’d watched. In You’re the Only Good Thing in My Life, his girlfriend is “posing as a Playboy centrefold”, which causes him to forget the rivalry between Hugh Hefner and Bob Guccione and observe: “You could be my Penthouse pet.” I suspect it’s meant to be honest and open, but it just feels icky. Then the melodies overwhelm the words, and you forgive him. Just about.