I received a few startled replies when I asked if anyone fancied Cigarettes After Sex in Brixton with me this week. The Texas-formed, Brooklyn-based band have a saucy name that sticks out on those all-important Spotify playlists, and a smouldering, post-coital indie rock sound that suits it precisely. A self-titled debut album from last year has been a word of mouth success, climaxing in this, by far their biggest UK concert.
Theirs is headphone music, best experienced horizontally, which made this show less successful than their recorded output. The audience seemed mostly to be couples who, forbidden from doing what they normally do while listening to these songs, decided to have a noisy chat instead.
Backlit in stark white, dressed in black, frontman Greg Gonzalez was just about visible, but the rest of the quartet was barely seen until two giant glitterballs provided a belated bit of showmanship during Apocalypse.
His one-paced compositions, heavy on guitar reverb and echoing Phil Spector drums, had impeccable seductive charm. Even a cover of a soft rock favourite, REO Speedwagon’s Keep On Loving You, arrived in indistinguishable noirish clothing. But they needed more power and volume to achieve dominance over a room as big as this one.
In the encore, early song Dreaming of You, spotlights shafted suddenly outwards as a guitar line roared. It was a closing sign that they can grab attention as well as fashioning atmospheres. Finally all that smoke had fire.