Album review: Can’t Swim – Thanks, But No Thanks

Fourth album by New Jersey’s Can’t Swim can’t quite live up to its own promise…

Album review: Can’t Swim – Thanks, But No Thanks
Mischa Pearlman

The problem with a great song title is that the song then has a lot to live up to. That’s a conundrum that New Jersey post-pop-punks Can’t Swim have established for themselves with this fourth full-length. Things start off strongly with Nowhere, Ohio. It’s a title that inherently recalls the existential angst of contemporary USA, its vast, dusty landscapes and the emptiness of the promise of the American dream – the restless pursuit of that which can never be achieved.

Those are themes and ideas that the song itself builds upon with its lyrics, too. ‘Found myself on top the highest ledge,’ sings Chris LoPorto, ‘Then I thought about Columbus and what Skiba said.’ That existential quandary is a reference to Alkaline Trio’s Radio, a song from 2000 full of visceral self-loathing and regret on which Matt Skiba proclaims ‘If Columbus was wrong, I’d drive straight off the edge.’ It’s a nice reference, but it sets up another self-imposed conundrum by inviting comparison to a song that even Can’t Swim would likely admit is far superior.

Still, as their name suggests, this is a band who have always battled against odds and faced adversity with bruised ribs and black eyes. After that opening track, they do away with capital letters as they seek catharsis for the personal torment and universal trauma that permeates this record. It’s also when the titles start getting really good: me vs. me vs. all of y’all is a jaunty blast of melancholy pop-punk that ruminates on the life lessons of being in a band, yer paradox i'm paradigm is a boisterous alt.rock anthem full of vitality and surging guitars that gives way to the mournful, mood of i heard they found you face down inside your living room, which is one of this album’s highlights.

Elsewhere, i’ve never paid a toll on the new jersey highway is an ode to the band’s home state that helpfully informs the listener that ‘the summer’s hot, the winter’s cold’, while my anger’s got issues can’t quite match the feelings its title or lyrics try to convey.

To some extent, it’s perhaps unfair to judge a song by comparing it to its title and the weight of expectation it carries. After all, there are plenty of great songs with mediocre titles. But the crux of Thanks, But No Thanks is that, while these 10 tracks are better than mediocre, they’re lacking the vigour, the bite, the weight, the intensity and intent that Can’t Swim have previously proved themselves capable of. That’s a real shame.

Verdict: 3/5

For fans of: Jimmy Eat World, Anberlin, AS IT IS

Thanks, But No Thanks is out now on Pure Noise

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