A Bit of Gussying Up Wouldn’t Hurt
To be completely reductive, so as it get it out of the way: naming your female-fronted group’s first album No Makeup functions more or less as a kitschy way to denote minimalism and not necessarily dullness, right? With Summer Cannibals, it’s hard to say. The Portland group wobbles between straightforward riot grrl attitude and a musical styling that’s so plain Jane, it’s as if some tracks had never seen a studio before. No Makeup is without pretension and occasionally lacking in substance; a frustrating dance between solid efforts and sonic waste. Its eponymous track is catchy enough, though it’s a half-realized effort by the time it hits its brash end at less than two minutes.
Opening track “Sounds” is an eclectic mix of beachy Tennis guitar riffs and vocals from frontwoman Jessica Boudreaux that waltz between Karen O and Patricia Day, pairing such distinct styles seamlessly. There’s no faulting her delivery; Boudreaux’s Ty Segall-inspired grit is impassioned and damn sharp. It’s a promising start that melds into the somewhat forgettable “Emergency” before bouncing back to life with “The Hand.” The album seems to vacillate in that manner throughout its lean 27 minutes. If you’re unconcerned with sifting through the short and sweet album, additional standouts include “Take Me Out,” a track whose lyrics mirror the storyline of Summer Cannibals’ Patti Smith song namesake.
“Don’t Think” follows right after and is a welcomed surprise brimming with contemplative guitars and a lyrical lament to boot, both of which sluice onto a fittingly punk rock ending before transitioning into “Wives.” Though it’s a supposedly even split of five solid tracks and five forgettable tunes, No Makeup stands as barely a business card for Summer Cannibals’ fledgling music career. Sure, Boudreaux and fellow (former) Your Canvas member Marc Swart are drastically switching genres but it’d be unfair to brandish that card in an attempt to remit half of their efforts. Summer Cannibals are off to a rocky start but the promising foundation they occasionally reveal leave them with nowhere to go but up.