I want to tell you about my friend Josh. Josh is the sweetest person you’ll ever meet. He can brighten anyone’s day by simply entering the room. Josh is hilarious and can take his energy level from 0-100 in seconds. I feel like most people who know Josh just tend to latch onto the chaotic energy he brings, but Josh can also be one of the kindest, most caring people when he needs to be. That being said, he can bounce back from those serious moments in a heartbeat. It’s for this reason that Diet Cig reminds me of Josh.
The New Paltz duo of Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman create a simple brand of power-pop. They meld clean, distorted and sludgy sounds over vigorous drum beats with a cutesy vocalist singing songs about feminism and relationships. It’s a simple formula, that’s cost them some heartache from critics, but Diet Cig have such a large amount of energy, as is demonstrated during their chaotic live shows. Bowman drums with a studious nature, only occasionally cracking a smile, but Luciano bounces around and makes silly faces that go with her tunes.
Diet Cig’s music is catchy and simplistic, but the real draw comes from Luciano’s lyrics. Much of Swear I’m Good at This comes from a place of female empowerment. “Link in the Bio”, “Maid of the Mist”, and “Tummy Ache” all have a running feminist theme, and Luciano delivers each line with an attitude like in “Maid of the Mist”:
I wanna hold a seance
For every heart I’ve broken
Put them all in a room
And say “get over it”
You’ll be ok
In some time
By the time the bridge comes, she gets more serious, but this serious-silly-serious formula is exactly the sort of thing that Josh would do. He’d listen attentively to your story, add some insight then bluntly joke “You’re alive/You’ll be okay.” During “Link in the Bio,” she concludes with the line “Don’t tell me to calm down,” before launching into a series of “Fuck Offs,” and she finds a way of sounding both sweet and intimidating. The opening song “Sixteen” is perhaps the best example of Luciano mixing silly and serious. Her demeanor is heartbreakingly serious, but it’s hard not to at least chuckle at the line “It was weird, moaning my own name, while trying to fuck.”
Still, Diet Cig’s sincere moments are most memorable on the album. “Apricots” is a standout acoustic track that features Luciano singing very softly. “Road Trip” is a simple tour song, but also expresses the romance of taking a road trip with someone intimate. The closing song “Tummy Ache” is also a serious Diet Cig song with the tone of a sillier song. It conclude the album with Luciano screaming “It’s hard to be a punk, while wearing a skirt,” and no matter how hard it may be, I swear Diet Cig are good at it.