Music Reviews

Cigarettes After Sex Cry

(Partisan Records) Rating - 4/10

One of the best surprises of 2017 was how Cigarettes After Sex's debut album managed to not be insufferable. Greg Gonzalez’s fuckboy demeanor was hard to ignore, but the self-titled project by the ambient pop group was lush and erotic in a surprisingly solid way. From tracks like K. to Sweet, there was enough detail in each lyric and synth melody to call to mind the horniness of Leonard Cohen when layered with the haziness of Beach House. Gonzalez’s pretentions occasionally still managed to slip in, particularly when describing the album as "...the novel or feature-length version of Cigarettes After Sex.” The cinema metaphors continue onto the press release for their latest, Cry, where Gonzalez writes that he views the album as a black and white film. Sadly, if their debut was Pawel Pawlikowski’s masterful and sensual Cold War, Cry is more akin to Louis C.K.’s embarrassing and uncomfortable I Love You, Daddy.

It’s not only that the off-putting and joyless demeanor has been expanded upon, it now suffocates the songs. If Cigarettes after Sex was a study of an ugly but fascinating character, Cry manages to trap you in the same room with that guy as he talks to himself about choking girls ad nauseam. It may even seem funny, but the style is lifeless this time—and the moments that descend into self-parody get taken more seriously than ever. Take Hentai, a song with brushed snare drums, light electric pianos, and buzzing strings rooting it. Oddly, the writing here is some of the lamest on the album, despite the edgy posturing of the title. The chorus descends into watery cliches, where Gonzalez sings about “waiting for you” with less excitement than ever. As his voice starts to sound more and more like softened sandpaper, you wish he’d attempt something more subversive.

Somehow, even the better songs on Cry start to lull you to sleep. Kiss it Off Me has a good bassline anchoring it, and seems like it could bring some power to the chorus, but is disrupted by a woeful vocal melody during the hook. Similar problems happen with Heavenly, where the production has a nice feel to it and the drums have a nice crunch to them, but suffers from the use of overly compressed vocals. At least the title track has a thumping bass part that drives it, even with its hollow lyrics. You’ve also got the opener Don’t Let Me Go, which attempts to reclaim some of the leftover texture from their debut, but only succeeds with the layering of keys and moaning guitars. Even with these slight distinctions, Cry can only feel like it runs in circles with the same instrumental haziness on loop.

It doesn’t help much that Gonzalez turns more punchable by the minute. You know guys like these who are unbearably smug and mockable; he manages to turn the cliche into a real person. The one great thing he does is narrow down his character to a T, helping you to "really" understand him. And with that, you understand that he's a shallow prick. Hentai is only the beginning of his pseudo-sexual ramblings, and it only decreases in quality from there. On their debut, you tried your best to ignore lines like “the patron saint of sucking cock” to appreciate the other qualities on display. With Cry, the instrumentation has turned into self-parody, the production is a painful slog, and the worst lyrics are impossible to ignore.