April 7, 2017

LP: Diet Cig - Swear I'm Good at This

Diet Cig's stellar first full-length finally arrives.

How have we not had a full-length album from Diet Cig until now? It’s been TWO YEARS since the duo first exploded into our lives with their debut EP. In that time, Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman have been ecstatically bouncing on stages across the country and drumming up new fans of their #relatable “slop-pop” anthems. The new songs they’ve been playing at these shows have only added to the anticipation for their official debut. Now the hour is at hand.

“Finally, it’s time, to make my words come,” Luciano sings on “Tummy Ache,” the closing bookend to Swear I’m Good at This. Diet Cig proves that they're still hitting their creative stride with this album - their sound hasn’t gotten any less visceral in the last two years, nor their lyrics any less insightful. There are scores of bands writing songs about the pains of growing up, living in a city, sexism, and heartache. What makes Diet Cig remarkable is how they capture the sweet pain of going through all this while yearning for something better. Opening song “Sixteen,” which fans will recognize from live performances, starts with a rated R-Swiftian turn of phrase: “I didn’t think you had to go to town / And tell everybody’s mom that I’m sleeping around.” It goes on to explore how the routine and perhaps mundane things, like planning a party, can be wrecked by a breakup. Luciano is hit with the weight of her loss when she realizes “all of my friends are mostly friends with you.” The following line, “Now I’m all alone in a grocery store, wondering who I’m buying all of these hotdogs for,” is classic Diet Cig. It’s simple and a bit silly, but hints at a deep emotional devastation. They walked a similar line on their 2015 single “Dinner Date.” That connective tissue from those early songs runs through the entirety of Swear I’m Good at This.

Their songs still have a tendency to erupt into exuberant sprints, but “Bath Bomb” and the heart-wrenching “Apricots” prove that the band can be just as crushing while they catch their breath. The line, “I am so lonely in this big city and everybody’s so damn busy” from “Bite Back” is a natural sequel to the tale of moving to New York told on their Over Easy EP opener “Breathless.” Despite sounding bigger and blown up due to production tricks like multiple tracks of guitars and vocals, very few extra instruments enter the duo's relatively minimal set up. Aside for some light banjo on “Sixteen,” Diet Cig keeps the focus on the guitar, drums, and vocals that made us all such rabid fans in the first place. One shining quality is the explicit feminist consciousness that runs through the album. “Link in Bio” shouts back at gaslighters who tell us we're being “crazy” or “overreacting” for speaking our truths. Luciano kicks it off by singing, “I’m not being dramatic but I’ve just fucking had it” and warns “Don’t. Tell. Me. To. Calm. Down,” with a fierce definition on each word. On “Maid in the Mist,” Luciano sings, “I am bigger than the outside shell of my body / And if you touch it without asking then you’ll be sorry,” referencing issues of consent and objectification. Closer “Tummy Ache” tackles the misogyny in DIY music scenes that gave birth to Diet Cig, griping, “My stomach hurts, cause it’s hard to be a punk when you’re wearing a skirt.” Times still may be tough, but if Diet Cig keeps putting out albums like Swear I'm Good at This, it’s not hard to imagine scenes everywhere being flooded with skirt-clad fans eager to get their voices out as well.

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Listen to Diet Cig on bandcamp.

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Mo is a writer who can be spotted at the gig dancing like a squid. Follow him on twitter @sadgayfriendx.