The longstanding opinion around Can’t Swim is that they’ve hit an exceptional jumping-off point within modern emo and post-hardcore, but are yet to find a home to really show off what they can do. It’s why last year’s Fail You Again went as unnoticed as it did by so many – it was easily a great album, but in the current parameters of the scene, Can’t Swim aren’t an easy band to place anywhere. They’re more raw and ragged than so many of their contemporaries, and Chris LoPorto’s terse, rasping vocals and penchant for some truly corrosive lyrics, they feel most like an underground band trying to break out into bigger things, but doing so without changing their approach to appeal to anyone in particular. And that’s far from a bad thing; in an era where bands are all too quick to sandblast their sound at the slightest whiff of profit, a band keeping as steadfast as Can’t Swim are, and yet continue to chase such lofty ambitions, is a rarity that should be getting more recognition than it does.
And yet, Can’t Swim are pushing against the tide of the scene zeitgeist that, through no fault of their own, is much stronger, and leaves them at the mercy of a scene that’s proven time and time again how unforgiving it can be to those who don’t conform to its ways. The fact that hasn’t stopped them, though, is more than enough of a reason to be onboard, with This Too Won’t Pass being another example of a band with depth and thoughtfulness, but also the ability to make some phenomenal, huge songs. Yes, it goes without saying that This Too Won’t Pass is a great album, but the combination of Can’t Swim’s scorched approach to lyricism and total disregard for trendiness is what makes this really worth sitting up and paying attention to.
It’s perhaps that writing that offers the greatest amount of depth, with Can’t Swim exploring the concept of evil and its role as an intrinsic part of the human psyche. It’s not something that’s combatted or denied either; from the very first track What Have We Done, it’s established as a part of the mind that’s immediately there, and working against both its host and those around them, subsequently personified as the demon that adorns the album artwork that governs how life is lived everyday. It feels like a stark persuance of the stereotypical emo ideal of heavy, depressive themes (and when it circles to its most defeatist form like on Hell In A Handbasket, it becomes even more obvious in that regard), but LoPorto never shies away from it, and there’s a realism in his head-on tackling of it that bears a tremendous amount of weight. Of course, evil in its purest form feels like a melodramatic extremity that wouldn’t befit this album’s arc, but its representation in the malevolent id that causes rash, impulsive decisions like on My Queen or “sometimes you meet the right people at the wrong times” feel just as important in the overarching discussion, and as relayed on Malicious 444, the prominence they display in everyday life can be a draining experience that Can’t Swim hit almost perfectly.
That’s all mirrored in how the band present themselves here; there’s a palpable wheeze and tiredness in LoPorto’s vocals with the emo around him feeling tense and drained, but it all feels totally earned. It’s the sort of sound that goes for broke in such an effective way, not only capturing the enclosed neuroses in LoPorto’s lyrics, but conveying them in a surprisingly palatable way. This Too Might Pass might feel fairly overbearing compared to a lot of modern emo, but Can’t Swim know how to use their sonic richness to their advantage for something that ends up as pretty accessible. There’s a melodic bounce to “sometimes you meet the right people at the wrong times” and Amnesia 666 that, without the denser instrumentation and darker atmosphere, could make fairly convincing pop-rock songs, while the closer Winter Of Cicada is much broader and more grandiose in its execution. Even with the palpable sense of darkness pulsating through it, it’s never enough to totally alienate, and Can’t Swim’s use of it subtextually in their sound feels so well-realised and layered.
That can really be said about This Too Won’t Pass as a whole; the thought that’s clearly gone into this album is evident, though never seen as too much of a crutch or a necessity. The balance between thick, heavy melodies and such density in mental exploration is fleshed out to the best of Can’t Swim’s abilities, and the final result is the sort of bleak, brilliant listen that the scene desperately needs more of. Whether this will be the one that finally sees the masses move towards this band remains to be seen, but regardless, Can’t Swim are two for two at the minute under no one’s direction but their own. With evidence as complete and succinct as this, there’s no doubt they’ll continue to impress for the foreseeable future.
For fans of: Boston Manor, Citizen, Basement
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘This Too Won’t Pass’ by Can’t Swim is released on 16th November on Pure Noise Records.