Can’t Swim‘s new EP Foreign Language is one of the best hardcore releases I’ve heard in some time. Which is weird, because I’m pretty sure they’re a pop punk band.
Foreign Language‘s lead single “Filthy Rich” starts out about as hardcore as it gets: a quick drum fill drops into a bouncy bass line, over which a snotty singer—who sounds half-Andrew Neufeld/half-Jacob Bannon—rants about, somehow simultaneously about the capitalist ails of the world and a friendship betrayed; Trash Talk‘s Spencer Pollard cuts in with a call of “degenerate!” and the guitars start laying down some chords, custom made to two-step to. The tension ramps up from there, and then… it becomes a Blink-182 song all of a sudden. A really good Blink-182 song! (if you can remember the last time that happened). The Blink-182 comparison is not just being used as a snide shorthand for pop punk here. The clean vocals on the chorus split the difference between Tom DeLonge nasal wine and Mark Hoppus’s dissected droll. It’s upbeat, super catchy and completely unexpected. Rinse. Repeat. Finsh with a First Blood-style breakdown.
The rest of Foreign Language largely follows suit. The self-titled intro track, is a frantic hardcore rager—reminiscent of Converge‘s recent, wirey openers—which culminates in a floaty, elated “chorus” that comes courtesy of Adam Lazzara from Taking Back Sunday. The overall approach is not disimilar to the pop/hardcore blend Your Demise attempted on The Golden Age (2012) or Deez Nuts‘s recent, awkward face turn. Here, however, the blend is far more potent and there’s some subtle variation to be had as well. “Shoot!” dabbles in some mild experimental/electronic elements, while laying down the kind of menacing disco stomp you might expect from an industrial metal band; Can’t Swim stick closer to a straight hardcore template on “Power”, which features Frank Carter of Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes and (ex-)Gallows fame—resulting in a far more vital and spiteful protest song than anything off the new Refused album; and Stray From the Path‘s Drew Dijorio pops up on the more skate-punk inclined “Sour”, although it’s on album closer “Prick” that the band try their hand at nu metal. A lot happens over the EP’s brief run time and it’s shorter duration will likely leave you longing for more.
The prevalence of guest spots on Foreign Language, as well as the EP format and sudden change in direction suggests it might wind up a strange oddity in the band’s otherwise (until now) distinctly pop and emo punk-inspired discography. Given how successful their blending of styles here is though I, for one, would love to see them continue down their newfound path. It’s been a while since anything from the worlds of either hardcore or pop punk has truly excited me, but Can’t Swim may just have ended both dry spells in one go.
Foreign Language is out now through Pure Noise Records.