Bubblegum, or: A rare miss from Cigarettes After Sex

(This is a piece that was originally on my Tumblr, and is being crossposted here.)

To preface this blurb, I absolutely stan Cigarettes After Sex. I love most everything they do, which is why the words I’m going to write here feel weird.

It’s been slim pickings as a CAS fan because we haven’t really had much in the way of anything new since 2019/2020, and I understand that’s also because the pandemic happened and they’re getting all the touring done that they wanted to before. But from 2020-end of 2022, it’s been a musical desert.

December brought us Pistol (which was really good), and a few months later we got one hell of a bomb drop: Bubblegum would finally be releasing. Now, some reading this might stop and say “what do you mean by finally? Bubblegum is a new song!”

Ah, but it actually isn’t; just up until July 2023, it only ever existed as a crudely recorded live performance. Go watch it if you haven’t already. Maybe keep it on tap in another tab or something.

Short of the relatively mediocre sound quality, the earlier version of Bubblegum was well in line with CAS’ typical sound, and it sounded absolutely amazing.

The version that we just got in 2023, however…it feels like a very rare miss from CAS. The overall structure of the song is similar enough, but the guitar is toned down a lot. A little too much. The solo present in the live/early version is completely missing in the studio version, the job of carrying the song in that section being left to bass and keyboard.

The guitar really only gets to strut its stuff during the chorus (and a bit at the end where it’s just repeating the same melody over and over) where it feels like it’s fighting Greg’s (excellent) vocals for prominence.

I feel like 2023’s Bubblegum would otherwise be a very okayish song in a universe where the early, live version didn’t exist and wasn’t vastly superior. It’s a shame too because I feel like 2023’s version could easily be made better by just allowing the guitar to shine through a bit more than it does. I know CAS loves their bass and keyboard, but it feels like 2023’s Bubblegum was carried too hard by both, and it shows.

(On the flip, if you want an example of an old song of theirs being brought forward with excellent results, Please Don’t Cry is a good one. Originally appeared on an early album of theirs that’s out of print and it was more fast-paced rock, but was performed live in 2018 with their current sound and it absolutely blows me away.)