Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Two years after their debut EP Over Easy put them on the map, Diet Cig finally release their debut album Swear I’m Good at This. A scrappy, sprint of a noise pop record that sees the duo navigate characteristically lo-fi production and build on their fast-paced punk ethos. Musically it’s hardly reinventing the wheel, consisting primarily of punk-by-numbers power chords and fairly simple drums, however Alex Luciano’s whimsical lyrics make for a stark and honest album about the pains of growing up.
“Moaning my own name, while trying to fuck.” Any album that begins by talking about the weirdness of having sex with a person with the same name as you makes for a peculiar, if not interesting listen. Right from the get go Luciano lays herself and her emotions bare on opening track ‘Sixteen’, as Noah Bowman’s drums kick-in to transform the track into the kind of lo-fi indie pop banger we’ve come to expect from Diet Cig. There’s a rebellious streak to the record as Luciano takes the low-points in her life and wears them as a badge of honour. “I feel like garbage, doesn’t mean I’m wasted,” Luciano howls on ‘Bite Back’, before declaring “I just wanna have ice cream on my birthday/ blow the candles out and wish all of my pain away” on the epic ‘Barf Day’ as she embraces her own melodramatic woes.
There’s still a sense though that Diet Cig lack the same lyrical and musical nuance that makes the work of their fellow indie pop counterparts (Frankie Cosmos, PWR BTTM etc.) so vital. Yes there is a brutal honesty in the delivery of Luciano’s lyrics, and an arena scale to the choruses of tracks like ‘Bath Bomb’ and ‘Barf Day’, however it sometimes feels too heavy handed. Lacking that same seamless blend of self-deprecation and observational cynicism as the duo attempt to cram such large themes as feminism, loss of innocence and coming-of-age (to name a few) into such a short run-time. Giving the album an almost ‘box-ticking’ feel.
“A brutal honesty in the delivery of Luciano’s lyrics, and an arena scale to the choruses”
Album closer ‘Tummy Ache’ is the feminist epic that sees out the brief 28 minute duration of Swear I’m Good at This. “Trying to find my voice surrounded by all boys”, Luciano exalts as she sings of her experiences growing up in a music scene dominated by the other sex (although to be fair she has done quite well herself in that she’s only 21). The track builds to the glistening crescendo of final refrain “it’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt”, as the guitar, drums and twinkling epic piano keys kick-in to create a ‘powerful final moment in a film’ type vibe. The type of bittersweet anthem Diet Cig managing to create time and time again.
Swear I’m Good at This is an energetic record that packs a punch. This is an album for the slacker generation, for the underdogs. It’s relatable, and balances a sharp wit with an honest outlook on teenage life and growing up. It’s not particularly pretty, nor pushing any boundaries musically, but that would be to miss what Diet Cig are about. Swear I’m Good at This is a collection of heart-on-sleeve indie pop tracks that aren’t afraid to say what they want or shy away from some of the big topics that concern young millennials today. And when it comes to catchy indie pop anthem, yeah, it’s fair to say they are Good at This.
Best Tracks: ‘Sixteen’, ‘Tummy Ache’