With a name like Cigarettes After Sex you’d expect to see a bunch of greasy-haired and long-in-the-tooth rockers. This couldn’t be further from reality. CAS, which formed in Texas in 2008 and are now Brooklyn-based, describe their music as ‘ambient pop’, though it’s probably closer to ‘ambient rock’ were I to be so picky. The group came to prominence, as much as an ambient band can, in 2015 on the release of their Affection EP, which included their cover of REO Speedwagon’s Keep on Loving You. Their tune, Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby, which featured in the first season of The Handmaid’s Tale, and has a classic feel to it that makes you think it’s been around since the 60’s, couldn’t have done any harm either in raising their profile.
The band were holding court in London’s Brixton (or ‘O2’) Academy, which holds just under 5,000 people. The gig was sold out so I guess there were around that many at the gig. The vast majority of the set was made up by those tunes from their eponymous 2017 debut album, their only album to date. In fact, I think they played all of the tunes on that album, alongside others including Affection, Nothing’s Gonna…, Keep on Loving You, and a new tune. The band stuck closely to the recorded versions of each tune, which was a bit of a shame given the potential to do something a bit different with each, though perhaps my slight disappointment is due to the jazzer inside of me!
The band revolves around Greg Gonzalez, the band’s founder, and singer/guitarist. It’s his quiet, ethereal vocals and chiming guitar chords that give the band its dreamy, somnambulant sound; a sound, which is perhaps better suited to a more intimate venue that Brixton Academy, even once the sounds guys got the mix right (the vocals were too low in the mix and the bass was too boomy). Nevertheless, it was great to hear live one of my favourite albums of 2017. The highlight of the evening was the encore, Apocalypse (‘your lips, my lips, apocalypse’), the standout track off their album and a clear fan favourite. Here’s a brief video that I shot…
CAS are definitely worth checking out if you’ve not seen or heard them before. You won’t be disappointed.