Sift through the razor blade guitar riffs and brat-punk melodies and, at their heart, Summer Cannibals have always been a band rooted in defiance. The Portland quartet put that reality to the test when they decided to dump an entire album they’d made with an abusive creative and personal partner and start back at the beginning.
The result, Can’t Tell Me No, is a fluid, scorching indictment of personal and professional toxicity backdropped against some of the band’s more melodic, nuanced songwriting, making for perhaps their most dynamic listen to date.
“I think I had a fear of softness in this project because I equated my anger with people taking me more seriously,” admits vocalist and guitarist Jessica Boudreaux. “But over the last seven years of having this band, I’ve slowly been opening up and have become more and more comfortable with vulnerability—not just lyrically, but musically. For me it feels vulnerable and scary to play softer music.”
This new approach taken on Can’t Tell Me No is rewarding, and puts a spotlight on the band’s songwriting maturity. But to bury the lede of the album’s ferociously smart takedown of emotional and physical abusers would be foolish; Can’t Tell Me No plays like a pronounced snarl right out of the gate on “False Anthem,” a track teetering on the precipice of a full patriarchal smackdown.
Seething lyrics and alternately poppy and vengeful rockers (“Behave”—listen below—and “Staring at the Sun” are standouts) drive the record’s central thesis of confronting and breaking down the support structure for abusers, making the whole album a bona-fide empowerment masterpiece.
“I needed to address the situation I found myself in over the last couple years on this record but I personally needed to do it in a way that had a balance of emotions that felt as complex as the ones I’ve experienced,” Boudreaux explains. “It’s not all tears. It’s not all anger. But it’s not all jokes, either. I feel like we’ve struck a good balance on this album but I’m always trying to keep myself aware of what we’re presenting to people in that I just want to make sure it’s always honest and a true reflection of the complex personalities that make up this band.”