When the New York duo of guitarist/singer Alex Luciano and drummer Noah Bowman released their first full-length as Diet Cig back in 2017, Swear I’m Good At This, it was impossible not to be completely smitten with its effervescent blasts of sugar-rush melody and high energy fuzz-punk. The album was an addictive lo-fi gem that led to some heavy touring of the world’s basement venues with their raucous but all-inclusive live show, a safe space party of scissor kicks and sing-alongs.
The band eventually relocated to Richmond, Virginia where they have spent the past year working on a sophomore album, Do You Wonder About Me?, that navel-gazing yearn of a title alluding to the self-conscious anxieties that fuel the music. It’s clear that this is a much more polished and tasteful Diet Cig, the production lacking the buzzing grit that lent so much charm to their previous output. The majority of the songs also find themselves locked into the same mid-tempo groove, with only the thrilling Flash Flood injecting a welcome burst of pace. Frustratingly, Flash Flood also contains the album’s recurring bugbear of a song feeling like it is building to a climax, to then either end abruptly or fizzle out. With songs of such heightened emotions, the lack of a cathartic release is a strange sensation and lends the album an oddly unfinished feel at times, something exacerbated by the inclusion of two brief interludes in an album of only ten short tracks. For how long the band reportedly spent on the album, there’s not a lot of album here.
Still, it’s a testament to the band’s inherent appeal that there is enough to compensate. There’s an endearing prettiness to Diet Cig’s melodic sensibilities that is always easy on the ear, and the best tracks here are a joy. Broken Body cascades into view with some beautiful shoegaze guitars as the song documents Luciano’s house-bound frustration following her ACL reconstruction surgery, the lyrics taking on a new weight in our current predicament: “I’m missing all the things that made me feel alive / I want to die, I’ve been cooped up inside”. The album ends on a lovely note with Night Terrors Reprise, a dreamy echo of an earlier track that floats along on an insistent synth that sounds like a broken chord organ, reminding you of the magic that this band are still more than capable of cultivating.