In the current era, it can almost seem like you never quite know what surprise you’ll find on your social media timeline on your morning scroll. Whether music related or not, there always seems to be some unexpected headline, or headlines, flooding your screen and meeting your eyes upon scrolling through your pick of digital addictions. However, there is one thing we, as a society, can always be certain of. If it’s a new year, we will be getting some variety of new music from the always-excellent Can’t Swim.
To put it bluntly, Can’t Swim didn’t come to fuck around. The band blazed their way onto the scene with what I consider to be one of the best debut projects of all time with 2016’s Death Deserves A Name EP. The band went on to release their debut album the very next year with Fail You Again, and nearly seven years later, we’re already one album number four (not to mention the four EPs released in the same timespan). The point here is that Can’t Swim always seems to be hard at work on something, and it’s always of great quality.
That brings us to 2023, where the band is gearing up to release the forthcoming Thanks But No Thanks. So in lies the question, can Can’t Swim live up to the ultimate level of consistency that they have branded themselves with? Well, if you were expecting any answer other than a yes, you clearly have some more listening to do.
Before I start praising this album to high hell, because I absolutely will be doing that for the rest of this review, let me stress two important disclaimers; Can’t Swim are not doing anything new on this record. That goes both for themselves and their catalogue, and also for their mixed genre as a whole. This is a by-the-numbers Can’t Swim release—and I’m not mad at that at all. Secondly, I wouldn’t call this Can’t Swim’s best work. I would call it a great record, I might even call it a near-perfect record, but when looking at their discography as a whole, I still wouldn’t put it at the very top.
I want to stress that point because it is necessary to understand the level of quality of music that Can’t Swim puts out on a regular basis. Thanks But No Thanks is an absolutely magnificent album, but somehow, it isn’t even their best work. That’s a true testament to how masterful this band is at their craft, and how truly impressive their level of uniformly high quality of music making truly is.
Alright, now that I’ve given proper context as to my feelings on Can’t Swim as a band, I can continue to gas this album up more than 12 big rigs at a Los Angeles gas station.
Thanks But No Thanks catalyzes with the extraordinarily ebullient Nowhere, Ohio (perfect timing on the song title, considering Ohio is currently being turned into a radioactive wasteland). Vocalist Christopher LoPorto’s signature buttery-smooth vocals carry you from a pop-punk jam verse to a moodier, choppy chorus, showcasing a glowing hook that will leave you humming for days. I’ll admit, this song did take me a few listens, but now I can’t put it down.
From there, we move into the rockier can you help me, which features picture-perfect lead single hooks whilst not even being a lead single. This song also shines bright on the bridge front, with the section’s silky transition from bouncy guitar strums right back into that irresistible chorus.
This album’s entire front half or so is just banger after banger, whether it be the sleek, pop-punk single me vs me vs all of y’all, or a surprising love song interjection with the catchy, fuzz-laden met u the day the world ended. However, the true highlight of this album’s first half has to be the instant Can’t Swim Classic™ that is yer paradox i’m paradigm. The contrasting gloomy guitar riffing on the song’s verses alongside it’s poppy and sing-alongable chorus is truly spectacular, and I didn’t even touch on that vocally explosive bridge section yet. This is easily LoPorto’s shining moment on this entire record, with his shouts touching levels of emotion that are rare for Can’t Swim.
The instantly noticeable greatness of this record comes in its consistency, with each and every song having something unique to offer, feeling perfectly in place on the tracklisting. Thanks But No Thanks hits a surprising amount of notes, all whilst maintaining a constant of great quality, not too unlike the band’s overall career. There is plenty of area covered with this project; if one thing is certain, it is that you will not be bored.
For example, the album goes straight from the melancholy heartbreaker that is i heard they found you face down inside your living room, directly into the more in-your-face, high energy ELIMINATE. The latter showcases distorted guitars, booming kicks, and what is perhaps the biggest chorus on the whole record. Yet another instantly memorable Can’t Swim track for the books.
However, that isn’t to say you’ll be taken completely by surprise at any moment during the runtime of this record. It should be noted that there are no Set The Room Ablaze or Better Luck Next Time style hardcore leaning cuts on this project. While I have enjoyed the band’s heavier songs over the years, it does feel refreshing to have a more straightforward Can’t Swim record again. This album overall feels much more in line with a Fail You Again-type record, and less like 2021’s Change Of Plans. While I love everything this band has released thus far, I do appreciate the sort of return-to-roots that we’ve gotten with this album. However, that isn’t to say I wouldn’t be very open to more surprises in the future.
Thanks But No Thanks sticks its landing exceptionally well, ending on what is perhaps the best song with the plucky and downright depressing thx but no thx. This is easily one of the band’s best songs to date, displaying a sonic soundscape of sadness both in musicality and lyricism, which I will touch on in a moment. I couldn’t think of a better way the band could have concluded this record, and it only leave me hungry for more.
Lyrically, Thanks But No Thanks wears its heart on its sleeve in every moment. Every song has a distinct tone that is easily brought to life by Chris LoPorto’s beautiful lyrical work, ranging from the adorable, gushy met u the day the world ended, to the damn near eulogy that is i heard they found you face down inside your living room. The latter touches on dealing with the suicide of a close friend, with lines like “One stone, two names, underneath a twin grave / Hear lie the best of friends / Until we met again” cutting straight to the bone. Can’t Swim are brutally honest, but in a way that is easily relatable to anyone who has gone through anything similar.
Elsewhere, closing track thx but no thx touches on depression and the contemplation of one’s own suicide, with it’s absolutely heartbreaking chorus that sings “I’ve been keeping it from you, but secrets get hard to hide / Another thorn deep in my side, add to the scars for me to hide / Had no luck this time around, maybe I’ll figure this next life out.” Yeah, ouch. Anyone who has experienced a similar state of deteriorating mental health can easily identify with this song; it’s absolutely a difficult, but comforting listen, as it makes you remember that there are others out there who go through these types of things, too.
All in all, Thanks But No Thanks is a wonderfully catchy and heartfelt musical experience that will only leave you loving Can’t Swim more than you already should. Every song has something of value to offer, and features some variety of musical or lyrical nuance that will have you coming back for more. None of this is particularly shocking, as at this point, this band is known for their greatness and brilliant songwriting. But, it’s always great to have a fresh new helping. Can’t Swim is one of the most exciting bands around right now, and I absolutely cannot wait to see what’s next in their musical journey.
For fans of: Citizen, Better Off, The Wonder Years
‘Thanks But No Thanks’ by Can’t Swim is released on 3rd March on Pure Noise Records.
Words by Hunter Hewgley