by Kris Handel (@khandel84)
Can’t Tell Me No is the fourth full length from Summer Cannibals, now a quartet hailing from Oregon and although the roaring guitars and pummeling rhythms remain, this record shows a little bit more nuance in sound. Jessica Boudreaux’s songwriting maintains a certain toughness, but there is a bit more bounce and softening of edges on this record and the approach pays dividends. Boudreaux’s use of melodic classic west coast pop plays well when interspersed with the forceful assertions that have colored the songwriting on past recordings. The addition of another guitarist, in the form of Cassi Blum, is very noticeable and when they connect with Boudreaux the ensuing guitar onslaught is welcomed.
The title track comes sauntering out of the gates, before pushing into churning guitar and bobbing bass pierced by Boudreaux’s biting and slightly drawling snarl. Here Summer Cannibals combine their signature bite with a bit more of a rolling boil rather than an explosion that was so prevalent on previous work. There is a strong sense of no nonsense self-belief and drive that comes through full force in the lyrics like “I can scream/I can fight/I can keep myself right cuz/can’t tell me no/can’t tell me no/can’t tell me… can’t tell me no”. “Behave” is a bit of a slow burner with Boudreaux questioning the commitment to self-efficacy and staying true to yourself rather than ceding to someone else’s needs to the detriment of oneself. Boudreaux and company let the groove grow under Boudreaux’s slightly terse and piercing vocals until fading off into the ether.
“One of Many” starts out with some echoing Thin Lizzy-ish twin-guitar fills that ring throughout as the rhythm of section of Devon Shirley and Ethan Butman lope along with occasional drum fills and crashing cymbals that provide an equal amount of might. The musical playfulness from all involved here is smile-inducing and the energy is infectious, forceful and empowering through every moment. “Start Breaking” is a rebuke of those that may pretend to be empathic or caring to gain intimacy yet prove themselves prone to multiple ways of abuse. Boudreaux turns the destructive tendencies of others on its heads and sends a warning that the behavior is unwelcomed in every possible way and a warning that everyone should take heed.
Can’t Tell Me No shows Summer Cannibals to be willing to evolve as time goes along, there is a fluidity in these songs and melodies that provides a moment to step back and breath for all involved. The determination and bruising force that has driven the band remains, but instead of unflinching ferocity and waves of distortion there is a bit more use of space and pacing that allows for more melodic freedom. Boudreaux’s songwriting remains unafraid to call out bullshit that is seen from others and society as well as strains of self-empowerment and progress. Summer Cannibals are a band that remains open to change and have created a record full of belief in oneself which is full-hearted honest treat.