Considering that the lead guitarist learned how to play the guitar after joining the band, New York pop-punk duo Diet Cig does pretty well.
The duo, which consists of Alex Luciano on guitar and vocals and Noah Bowman on drums, has been working together since 2014, when they met under happenstance circumstances at a house show in New York. With just one EP under the belt, Diet Cig moved up into new territory with the release of their new album, “Swear I’m Good at This,” on April 7, 2017.
The album, which is a volatile-sounding declaration of identity, draws clear influence from fuzz/alt-pop punk bands like Pity Sex and Tiger’s Jaw, but approaches the sound with a youthful, fresh-faced approach.
Track one, “Sixteen,” starts off slowly, with no instrumentation accompanying Luciano’s high, clear (if slightly whiney) vocals. The first half of the song is acapella and ballad-like, a peek into Luciano’s past as she tells us about a teenage love. Instruments kick in about halfway through, and energetic guitar riffs and drum beats take the song to a more upbeat and entertaining avenue. There is a pleasant variation between fast-paced, aggressive instrumentation and slow, vocal-heavy segments throughout the remainder of the track.
The song is an anthem to the awkward sexual encounters and the one night stands of our teenage years, summed up in the chorus, “I think you are the kind of guy/who would meet me at a party and forget my name/and try to take me home all the same.” The combination of high, pretty vocals with quirky, even crude lyrics and aggressive instrumentation create an interesting, rebellious feel to set the tone of the album. While the whiney, slow beginning seems like a questionable choice to open the album with, it is well worth the listen.
Tracks two and three, “Bite Back” and “Link in Bio,” respectively, both start off strong with fast-paced, grungy instrumentation. Both feature entertaining guitar riffs interspersed with up-tempo drums and slow moments of piercing vocals. “Bite Back” introduces more angst to the album, with lyrics revolving around relatable young adult struggles like feeling overwhelmed and discontent. As the instrumentation slows and the chorus repeats, “I feel so lonely in this big city/and everybody’s so damn busy,” Luciano’s high vocals easily evoke feelings of sympathy as well as understanding. This general angst remains for the rest of the album – a noteworthy source of melancholy but at no point overwhelming with toxic pop-punk whine.
The album mixes things up for tracks five and six, shifting to a slightly different tone. Track five, “Leo,” is the token sappy love song of the album, beginning quietly with poetic vocals about astrological signs and attraction. The track is short and sweet, a minute and a half of fuzz distortion and pretty lyrics. This ode to romance and the sweet parts of love adds a new layer of happy, an important detail in breaking up some of the album’s angst.
Track six, “Apricots,” adds another level of complexity to the album as well. This song is slow and acoustic, featuring only guitar and vocals for the entirety of the track. It has a light but somber tone, emphasizing Luciano’s voice and lyrics. It is a personal poem concerning Luciano’s own losses as well as her desires, adding a personal and emotional touch to the album. “Why did I buy six apricots? I’ll never eat them before they rot.” The track is brief but complex, highlighting Luciano’s poetic ability as well as revealing her emotional side to the listener.
For the remainder of the album, Diet Cig returns to the more upbeat, angsty sound introduced in the first few tracks. Track nine, “Blob Zombie,” is a humorous account of the human struggle of exhaustion and laziness. Starting off with fast, energetic, and upbeat instrumentation, the song explores the eternal paradox of wanting to be the best you can while simultaneously wanting to stay in bed forever. “I just want to sleep in,” Luciano repeats, touching on a feeling familiar to everyone. On this track, the universally relatable situation is highlighted by catchy, fast-paced melodies.
Track 12 finishes the album off strong with its first single, “Tummy Ache.” The sound is both heavy and catchy, with plenty of fuzz distortion and ominous drum beats. It is at once an ode to female adolescence and self-empowerment, an acceptance of its struggles and anxieties as well as an acceptance of personal strength. The message is an important once, reiterated by Luciano’s repetition of the line “I don’t need a man to hold my hand/and that’s just something you will never understand.” The track is Luciano’s ultimate declaration of identity, revealing her strengths and weaknesses as well as her journey to establishing her voice and persona. It is an empowering end to the album’s angst, a subtle reminder that there is still good in the bad.
Overall, the album is a journey of self-discovery and identity building, a tangible rendition of the discontent and disenchantment that so many of today’s young adults are feeling. The lyrics are quirky but relatable enough to accompany the aggressive distortion of the instruments, creating a sound that is interesting, complex, and unique. Diet Cig has managed to carve their own niche into pop-punk sound, combining the perfect amount of personality and originality with elements of a genre that desperately needed it. The result is a refreshing new approach to pop punk as well as alternative rock, one that steps away from the usual formula in order to deliver something much more personal.