Stoic and influenced by a pop model in one breath, suffocating and inescapably industrial in another, the guitar element in The One Tonic’s “We Can’t Fail” is as close to a center as this all-new release can contain, and alongside a terrific lead vocal and melancholic pulsations from the drums, it creates a track that is hard to put down once it’s been picked up for the first time. The One Tonic is pulling out all the stops to give us a sample of what they can do when there’s nothing to stop their creativity from going in any and every direction in “We Can’t Fail,” and it’s getting the attention of alternative rock critics around the country this season sans the normal asterisks that come with such buzz.
The rhythm in this track is provocative from the get-go and makes use of a rather jagged new wave beat I wouldn’t expect from this kind of arrangement. There’s a rawness to the distribution of the main melody at first, but by the time we get into the chorus, “We Can’t Fail” begins to sound like more of an exhibition in strength and balance than it does something more abrasive on its face. The influences The One Tonic have are clearly in the vein of punk rock and the industrial subgenre in new wave, but they aren’t clashing here at all.
In my first experience with “We Can’t Fail,” I immediately noticed how dark the harmony in the chorus is, mostly because of the interplay between the guitar parts that leads us into the hook. Out of nowhere, the band swallows us up and reduces the rhythm to a more disciplined swing, as if to prove some sense of physicality we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Some might see it as overkill, but for what I look for in an alternative pop song, this is about as well-thought-out a single as I could have asked for.
The vocals could have used a little more volume towards the end of the song, but I can understand why The One Tonic decided to go with a more minimalistic look on this front instead. In keeping the instrumentation at just a notch above the verses, we’re never allowed to get lost in the dreamlike cadence of the words, or the narrative they’re so bluntly sharing with us. This is a multidimensional single, and if The One Tonic had it their way, I think they’d have all of us take in each element within “We Can’t Fail” one gilded fragment at a time.
The One Tonic would be wise to try and experiment with their surreal side more than they did in this single the next time they step into the recording studio because, with a performance like this one, they embrace different elements of a sound that is wholly missing from the mainstream market right now. This isn’t an act that wants to live in the past or pillage the leftover schemes of another artist but instead builds on something I’m very curious to hear more of.
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