A band with genuine mystery is hard to come by in the Internet age, but Tempe scrap-pop outfit The Cigs had it: Not much is known about the short-lived project, but last week, the band posthumously released its second full-length, Marble Red, on Bandcamp.
The band started in January 2012 and abruptly broke up that summer, slinging their confessional and crude blend of jangle-pop and synth stutter at only a handful of shows. Thankfully, The Cigs were quick to record their output and Marble Red is a welcome second ode to comically bad relationships, '80s vocal grandiosity, and select elements of the slacker rock palette.
This time around, The Cigs further sharpened their juvenilia. The album is credited to co-songwriters Jenny Jenkem and Billy Butthash, both pseudonyms that reference the vile hillbilly inhalant drug made from fermented human feces. "Sex With Your Ex" shows Jenkem leading a Garbage-like romantic conquest that exits on a doo-wop taunt about stealing someone's boo. "I'd rather have a job / Then take a hit from your bong," she deadpans between a string of soaring Kate Bush high notes on the affectionately lazy ballad "Can of Abyss." Album closer "Sick of Being Lame" might be a song about a self-loathing vegan disguised as a Cocteau Twins single.
While Jenkem was unavailable for comment, Butthash said operating under a pseudonym helped to explore the most recent material's terrains of love, heartbreak, death and new life.
"There is something really refreshing about making music with no barriers," Butthash said via chat message over a popular social networking website. "In a way it comes off as joke music, but to us it's a very honest form of expression. The second album focuses on more real experiences where the first album was almost entirely fictional."
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I was lucky to catch The Cigs one time at a Sail Inn gig. The band was a four-piece that night, accompanied by backing drum and synth tracks which were not always perfectly lined up with their human counterparts. It lent the proceedings a charming ineptitude, as Jenkem bopped around the stage with closed eyes and the guitarist flailed hard into the chords. They gleefully strummed though breezy fuck-it numbers like "You Dropped Your Wallet," containing lyrics about boys staring at the singer's chest.
It takes something special to sound so good while not giving a shit.