Can't Swim

Fail You Again

Written by: TL on 22/04/2017 13:59:07

The New Jersey quintet Can't Swim were responsible for one of last year's best debut EP, with "Death Deserves A Name" exploding them onto punk- and emo-rock fans' watchlists, especially due to the strength of its awesome opening track "Your Clothes", an instant banger of a frustrated, gritty punk-rock track. The song seized your attention from the first second and firmly took you through its build-ups and explosive choruses, fueling your interest for the rest of the EP and for the band's following debut album, which has now arrived in form of "Fail You Again".

Considering how well "Your Clothes" worked, though - how strongly its grasp of the listener's attention was - it's honestly mildly disappointing to not find anything on "Fail You Again" that's on par or really follows up in that vein. Can't Swim are going for a personalized take on what you could call sad bastard punk, with vibes akin to those of Off With Their Heads and Captain, We're Sinking, yet they seem intent on mixing the full-blown frustrated elements with more downbeat, melancholy ones, and the combination rarely works out in ways that make you feel like the ends of the band's spectrum compliment each other.

Where "Your Clothes", as well as the other bands just mentioned, thrive on having a reckless energy that sounds like everything is headed down the stairs, unravelling, and drawing the listener in with a sheer sense of unfolding personal catastrophe, "Fail You Again", as an album, has a lot of steadily driving mid-tempo, which feels neither desperate, nor wallowing. And while the album starts off aggressive with the rampant "What's Your Big Idea", this increasingly feels like a style that Can't Swim are moving away from, yet are not fully comfortable leaving behind yet. This leads to songs that feel like sort of middle-of-the-road, gravel-throated punk rock, which then at some point has an awkward development into something more dramatic and emotional slapped on.

The album highlight and leading single "We Won't Sleep", a song that gets going in a way that's pretty ordinary for American punk rock/pop-punk, yet eventually surges, albeit with the help of some youthful choirs lifting the catchy chorus. "Friend" builds up over a whole song before arriving at a nice guitar-cascade that reminds of Apologies, I Have None, only to then promptly end. "Quitting" follows with a mellower outing, also in the vein of Apologies, but also trails off just after things grow bigger and more interesting, and "Hey Amy" blooms into this awesome swooning moment, which feels like it should be heartbreaking, but it kinda just sits there like something that was slapped on, when it should've been something that was built around carefully.

It's not that "Fail You Again" is a bad listen because it has moments like that sticking out regularly, which make you feel like Can't Swim are onto something. It's just that with the inflated expectations carried over from the EP's striking impact, you could easily have hoped for something that felt tighter and more cohesive. Instead the album falls into a common trap that young rock bands often step in these days, where it feels like the merits of the mood and style that are unique to the band, are betrayed by tempi and song lengths that inhibit the core ideas, as if there's been too much concern about being neither too wild nor too moody for the hoped for audience. Can't Swim made themselves known with a song that didn't sound like it had an inch of compromise in it. Let's hope there's more of that on their follow-up to this album.


Download: We Won't Sleep, Hey Amy, Stranger
For The Fans Of: Off With Their Heads; Captain, We're Sinking; Apologies, I Have None

Release date 10.03.2017
Pure Noise Records

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