“When I was sixteen I dated a boy with my own name/it was weird, in the back of his truck/moaning my own name/while trying to fuck”
As opening lines to a debut album go, that really does take some beating. Laugh? I haven’t stopped chortling at the ridiculous imagery that one line evokes for weeks now. It takes either a warped genius or someone with a distinctly worrying and chequered past to pen a lyric quite so unedifying. But herein lies the sheer joy of Diet Cig, the latest in a seemingly never-ending conveyor belt of two piece power punk pop talent emanating from New York. At first glance, it would be easy peasy to dismiss Diet Cig as just another garage band, a melange of boy-meets-girl-meets-primeval guitar riffs, yet to do so would be to ridicule the entire raison-d’etre of starting a band; to give life to the voice inside us all.
You feel that Alex Luciano needs the vehicle of music to exist. Without her art she may well become another bitter and troubled soul, the weight of the world and her own anxiety playing havoc with the neurons in her brain. Thankfully, Luciano decided to team up with Noah Bowman and carthartically pour out her troubles into twelve tracks of bite, venom and the pains of being a young woman in a world designed by and for old men. If all this sounds like yet another angry romp documented through the eyes of todays youth, then you’d be way off beam. Swear I’m Good At This is brash, it’s occasionally corny but at its core the album represents all the pent-up emotions we’ve all felt at some point in our lives.
The key is Luciano, as feisty and articulate as Kathleen Hanna she can spit out a confident, yet malevolent warning “And I am bigger than the outside shell of my body/And if you touch it without asking then you’ll be sorry” on the excellent ‘Maid of the Mist’ whilst latterly becoming more contemplative and introspective as she muses “It’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt” on ‘Tummy Ache’, a track which provides a mere glimpse of the cerebral wit which colours much of Swear I’m Good At This. The limitations of Diet Cig are as you would expect; there are only so many chords available and as with all guitar/percussions duos their sound doesn’t differ a great deal from track to track. But that’s not the point is it? Their USP is the ability to meld the effervescence of youth with a lyrical world-weariness.
Take ‘Barf Day‘ for example, a perfect introduction to the Diet Cig manifesto. It’s a three minute thrash-stomp through Garageland with a bored, laconic Luciano bemoaning “I just wanna have ice cream on my birthday/Blow the candles out and wish all of my pain away”. Yeah, I may be old but I still remember the agony of being young, how the world appeared dark, empty and unyielding. But I never had the sardonic wit or enough fire in my ample belly to channel my inner-angst in such a constructive or entertaining manner. Diet Cig are not a conduit to another world, they represent what it means to be young and pissed off with you, me, themselves and the entire God-damn planet. Plus they do it with charm and some great hooks. Sure, it’s all been done before and it bloody well better be done again because this is what fuels great rock music; without it we are left with nothing more incendiary and challenging than Father John Misty…and we wouldn’t want that now would we?
Swear I’m Good At This is released on April 7th on Frenchkiss