The word “weird” was thrown around a fair bit the night that ambient pop collective Cigarettes After Sex cast their spell of incredible stillness over Leeds University. “Surely they have a support band – it’d be weird not to,” said the barmaid, only to be proved wrong. Maybe this was because a support band would puncture the thick, dream-like atmosphere the Texan quartet are known for providing. The night in question was no exception.
The band know their style and stick to it, each song blended into the next, producing a hypnotic effect. When playing, each band member barely moved – drum sticks never seemed to be raised more than a couple of inches, and chant-like, murmuring vocals left the crowd looking mesmerised and almost perfectly still themselves.
Known for racking up numbers on YouTube (65 million views to date for 2012 hit ‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’) the band are touring the UK following the release of their self-titled album, including the dreamy and pleadingly romantic ‘Apocalypse’ which garnered the biggest reaction of the night.
Their dazed cover of REO Speedwagon’s ‘Keep On Loving You’ was another example of vocalist and band founder Greg Gonzalez’s signature monotone delivery of lyrics be they incredibly sentimental, or, in the case of 2017 track ‘Young & Dumb’ – cutting – “Well I know full well that you are / The patron saint of sucking c*** / Señorita, you’re a cheater.” The feelings of the songs appear to be completely lyrically conveyed meaning a live show feels more like a reading than a gig.
The lack of both a support act and the sort of show-y enthusiasm that you might expect from a live performance projected a sort of “This is how we do things” attitude meaning there wasn’t much of a call for an encore and there was an air of surprise when the band dutifully returned. Afterwards, with the sort of wave you might use to thank a driver for letting you out, they were gone.
As the crowd wandered, blinking, up the stairs and onto ground level, a young man gave his own succinct review with which most of the crowd would probably agree – “That was weird…but I liked it.”
The debut self-titled album from Cigarettes After Sex is out now via Partisan Records.
Photo Credit: Ebru-Yildiz