Thanks for sitting down, or at the very least, staring into the abyss that is the screen of your mobile device, to read this review. I know I appreciate it; I’m sure the editors of the site appreciate it as well.
Anyway, so I feel like I should first mention that I think I made a mistake.
I mean, I didn’t make a mistake volunteering to review this Diet Cig album. Don’t worry, it’s not that bad. But what I mean is that I think, in my quickness to commit to writing this, I mistook Diet Cig for another male/female duo.
I’m pretty confident what I thought I was signing up for was to review What Now, the new album from the 80s-inspired, electro-pop outfit Sylvan Esso. So, imagine my surprise when I hit play on this Diet Cig record, and instead of hearing Amelia Meath’s smoky cooing and a bunch of keyboards and beeps and boops, I hear Alex Luciano strumming a distorted electric guitar, taking big breaths and singing in a voice that calls to mind a very, very, very young Bjork (like when she was in the Sugarcubes), belting out the opening stanza of “Sixteen,” which is about dating someone with the same name as you, and how awkward it is when you moan your own name during sex.
Diet Cig formed roughly three years ago, and were really only on my radar because I came across a Brooklyn Vegan story that dissected the shitty review Pitchfork gave this record, Swear I’m Good at This. The blurb then went on to copy and paste quotes from people on Twitter who were outraged at the low score the album received.
Because, folks, in 2017, this is music news.
In a never ending hype cycle and need to generate content, some hapless staff writer thought this was something worth posting about—a review of a review. But maybe I shouldn’t dick ride Brooklyn Vegan too hard; it got my attention.
Putting it into something concise that the editors of Bearded Gentlemen can a) put in a bold and large font in the review and b) use as snippet when they share this on Facebook:
Diet Cig make incredibly idiosyncratic fuzzed out indie pop, and Swear I’m Good at This is about as precious and precocious as it gets—with Luciano delivering lines about buying hot dogs with what is presumably a straight face, but then giving a quick wink to remind you the whole thing isn’t supposed to be taken seriously at all.
Sonically, Diet Cig—with Luciano on vocals and guitar, and drummer Noah Bowman—owe a ton to the long line of fuzzed out indie rock duos that have come before them, including but not limited to the Japandroids and Death From Above 1979. Powering through every number as if their lives depended on it, with Bowman pummeling the drum kit and Luciano quickly strumming distorted chords.
Diet Cig teeter into a brash, power punk territory on many of the album’s songs, moving rapidly from note to note as to attain that “ramshackle” aesthetic. There are times when the whole thing seems like it is on the verge of falling apart, but somehow it manages to be held together by, presumably, Luciano’s very youthful magnetism.
Diet Cig’s Swear I’m Good at This is, at its core, a fun and youthful album, and its songs are mostly about being a young person.
So if you are young, and like to have fun (or at least, listen to music that doesn’t take itself seriously), then this is the kind of record that you may be attracted to. I, actually, don’t like to have fun, and I like my music to take itself pretty seriously, but there were moments where the cutesy charm of Diet Cig worked some kind of twee magic on me and made me crack a very small smile—Luciano’s deadpanning “I use my phone until it dies. Just like my plants, I can’t keep anything alive,” she deadpans on “Barf Day” (WHAT A TITLE!); rhyming “no strings attached” with “N’SYNC cassettes” on “I Don’t Know Her”; and even the simple act of her saying “Ready?” before Bowman’s drums come crashing in at the beginning of “Sixteen.”
I recently read somewhere about the unspoken distinction between when you say that you “grew up listening” to something versus when you say “I used to listen to that in high school.” There is music that you carry with you through time as you age, and there is music that you leave behind—and when you return to it, for nostalgia’s sake, you can see why you left it behind and how it’s aged poorly, or you can see a glimmer of what drew you to it in the first place.
Swear I’m Good at This is a fine album, but it is not the kind of thing I am going to return to on a regular basis—if at all.
My life is no better, nor is it any worse, for having listened to it and sitting down to write nearly 1,000 words about it. It’s an album that caters to a specific demographic of people who are either a) currently young, or b) never really grew up, or out, of youthful music. Diet Cig are obviously a spirited and energetic duo and this is a spirited and energetic debut full-length; however, I am neither spirited nor energetic. I am tired, like, all of the time, and I can see its brashness and sense of humor being something that would wear my patience down on repeat listens.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 (d0n’t @ me)
Swear I’m Good at This is out now in myriad formats, via Frenchkiss.
Kevin Krein is a Minnesota based writer, and has been operating the award winning music blog Anhedonic Headphones since January 2013. For nearly as long, he’s been contributing to Bearded Gentlemen; and for nearly as long, he wrote “The Bearded Life” column for the Southern Minn Scene magazine. He currently writes “The Column of Disquiet” for the recently launched Next Ten Words, and his writing has appeared on Spectrum Culture and in River Valley Woman.
He is a vegan, a huge jerk, and above all else, a cool rabbit dad.