I darted under the arches on Whitworth Street, Manchester tonight to Gorilla, to see fast up and coming Texas band Cigarettes After Sex. I arrived just as they came on the stage to a black and white backdrop of a house with a light in one window. This voyeuristic trope turned out to be the main concept of the show, for me.
They had set the scene perfectly for their style of music, definitely going for the noir, analog, low lights… almost seedy vibe, but in a way that makes you wish you were cool enough to be a part of. The imagery on the screen looped scenes of old black and white films or showed windows and gates under street lighting, people seeing each other behind curtains. I felt like we had stumbled across a very private performance by accident and were witnessing something rather than actively going to see a show and be entertained.
The very highly stylised concept works with the slow, shoegaze, 2am kind of music Cigarettes After Sex make and somehow, it kinda works. They have really captured that hazy, backstreet, late night feeling and used it as a vehicle for some sophisticated lyrics and simple but effective sounds. The music has space to resonate; nothing about the show was rushed or even energetic.
I must admit despite the early-XX style of music (also this idea of private creation in a public space) I didn’t really expect Greg Gonzalez and his band to take themselves so seriously. Perhaps they don’t, but onstage they barely opened their eyes let alone cracked a smile. I suppose if they did it would ruin the so carefully crafted image and there would be little concept for people to immerse themselves in, because the sound is really quite simple, it’s the concept that sells it.
Gonzalez’s voice however, isn’t simple at all. That androgynous ethereal voice, so silky but full of grit in places is tantalising. Full of lightness and dark just like the imagery. It’s that voice that could carry Cigarettes After Sex to great success. Manchester certainly seemed to like it, it was their third gig here already, and I think the melancholia is something Manchester’s music scene will really lap up.
Cigarettes After Sex’s new album is out on June 9th and you can preorder the album here.
I’m A Firefighter, Sunsetz, Dreaming With You, K, Nothing's Gonna Hurt You Baby, Keep On Loving You (REO Speedwagon Cover), Apocalypse (new single), Affection.
Encore: Please Don't Cry, Young and Dumb.