If there’s one band whose prospective blowing up currently relies on them patiently waiting for their moment, it’d be Can’t Swim. After all, there’s not much else they can do themselves seeing as they’ve grown into a ferociously volatile yet unflinchingly melodic post-hardcore prospect that has the underground clout in spades, but has also been placed at the edge of the mainstream consciousness for a while now. They’ve become the gold standard for what this sort of post-hardcore should aim for in the modern day, and all that’s left is one final push to turn them into the untouchable flagbearers the scene so desperately needs. It definitely feels like Foreign Language is serving as their own attempt to nudge themselves further towards that end goal as well, not only as a quick EP coming relatively soon after their excellent sophomore album This Too Won’t Pass to minimise between-project downtime, but also with a guest list ranging from Frank Carter to Trash Talk bassist Spencer Pollard to hammer home the magnitude of the pull they’ve achieved.
To say that doesn’t really do Foreign Language the justice it deserves, though; it makes it sound like a mere stopgap rather than the substantial, cogent evolution of Can’t Swim’s sound that it unequivocally is. Even as a band who are full of surprises at the best of times, this feels like it could be significantly more than most bargained for, as Can’t Swim take steps into socially-fuelled hardcore rage while keeping their unshakable foundations suitably so, making for the sort of short listen than barely wastes a single second when it really gets going. It’s a rarity to call an EP a band’s best work, but with all the notes that Foreign Language hits with hitherto unseen ferocity, it could well be just that.
Perhaps what causes it to succeed so thoroughly is that, on the whole, it’s really not that far removed from what Can’t Swim have delivered in the past. The brashness and scrappier ear for a melody is still there pretty much throughout, as is Chris LoPorto’s inimitable vocal rasp that constantly remains just on the edge of toppling into a full-blown polemic, but it’s in the necessary extra steps towards hardcore and similarly heavy tones that allows to connect so succinctly. Sure, the opening title track is most certainly a false start as a sub-minute blast of hardcore forgettability that makes no good use of Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara, but from then on, Can’t Swim go from strength to strength, with tracks like Filthy Rich and Power positively rippling with the extra heft and anger that’s been injected into them, and SHOOT! resting itself on a fantastic, propulsive bassline that feels almost letlive.-esque in how it rampages forward with street-level destructiveness. It’s where the thicker guitar tone that’s always been a huge selling point with Can’t Swim is allowed to exercise itself the most, now with an almost metallic level of power that a similarly dense production job only accentuates and makes it sound even more enormous. As for the guest vocalists, as much as they can be dismissed as minor boosts at best most of the time, they do prove to be necessary firepower when it comes to bridging the gap between where Can’t Swim are, and the snarling, destructive tendencies they want to embody. Pollard and Stray From The Path’s Drew York do this excellently on Filthy Rich and Sour respectively, but the real standout performance comes from Frank Carter on Power, channelling a vein-bulging rage that hasn’t been seen since his Gallows days and coming out with his most intense vocal showing in years.
It’s not like this anger is unjustified either, as Can’t Swim take aim at a frankly impressive number of corruptions and wrongs across such a brief runtime, and hit them all without it ever feeling undercooked or hesitant. It’s similar to the broad but powerful approach that Fever 333 took on their debut earlier this year, especially with the same ‘all power for all people’ sentiments on Power and the incendiary protest anthem Sour, and while Foreign Language doesn’t quite have the same richness of storytelling, it more than makes up for it in blunt, effective betterings across the board. Filthy Rich is a scathing polemic on the corrupting influence of money; SHOOT! tackles issues of police brutality; and the self-explanatory Prick rounds things off with a final expulsion of bile towards anyone and everyone else who might have somehow escaped the firing line. The bluntness of it all is the operative word here, but the more condensed EP structure takes the bulk of criticisms that could be levelled in that area, and allows hitting those targets to be a main priority that’s successful pretty much throughout.
It’s why the moves that Can’t Swim have made here connect so well; they clearly have the knowledge of how to approach this sort of hardcore correctly, and using it effectively means that the transition couldn’t feel more natural. In terms of vision alone, Foreign Language is already perhaps Can’t Swim’s most accomplished piece of work to date, but between the right amount of guest support at just the right moments, a heavier instrumental palette that’s ridiculously effective, and a clear hunger to cleanse themselves of as much bile as is necessary, it’s roughly about as good as something like this could’ve turned out. There’s already a lot to be impressed about with Can’t Swim, but Foreign Language continues to pile things on even higher, and with the rate they’re moving at, it genuinely feels like there’s nothing they can’t do.
For fans of: letlive., Trash Talk, Cancer Bats
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Foreign Language’ by Can’t Swim is released on 11th October on Pure Noise Records.