New York pop-punk pair Diet Cig’s debut album Swear I’m Good At This lives up to the hype. With the duo having attracted a cultish show of attention despite previously only releasing a five-song EP and a 7" single in 2015, the record successfully transfers all the eagerness of their energetic live shows to portray punk with unusual tenderness.
From the album’s opening track, Sixteen, when vocalist/guitarist Alex Luciano admits to an awkward adolescent encounter with an identically named guy in the back of a vehicle, it’s clear that she is an honest and relatable songwriter. As someone who couldn’t play her instrument before starting Diet Cig, Luciano’s ramshackle sing-alongs very much fall in the Best Coast mould of deceptively simple lyrics and power-chord strums but display more sensitivity than snark.
As Luciano yelps about feeling lonely in the big city on Bite Back, the compatibility of a crush’s horoscope sign (Leo) and eating ice-cream on her birthday until she feels sick (Barf Day), backed up by Noah Bowman’s explosive drums, Diet Cig make being young, unsure and messy sound like a triumph.
Swear I’m Good At This’ title is telling: while Diet Cig admit struggling with self-doubt (‘These days I could stay in the bath until I decay,’ Luciano yells, backed by chiming bells on the erupting Bath Bomb), they pick themselves up and forgive themselves for it. That determination wins out on closer Tummy Ache where, backed by cooing harmonies and Bowman’s crashing drums, Luciano finally finds her voice in an all-male scene, realising, ‘It’s time to make my words count in a way I haven’t quite figured out’ in a song you can imagine will inspire DIY girls everywhere.
That’s the best thing about Diet Cig: they give us hope that we can be better, kinder people ourselves.
Listen to: Sixteen, Blob Zombie, Tummy Ache
Buy Diet Cig - Swear I’m Good At This on LP/CD from Norman Records