Some will interpret the title of Summer Cannibals’ debut album, No Makeup, literally. It’s not difficult to see why most of the group’s existing promo shots find its members staring blankly ahead, colorless and unadorned, with little in the way of visual pretension. So goes the music on the fresh-faced quartet’s record: a snappy, 27-minute collection of garage-pop nuggets that are as bare and sonically direct as they are incisively catchy.
The story is a simple one, too. Summer Cannibals is the lovechild of former Your Canvas members Jessica Boudreaux (vocals/guitar) and Marc Swart (guitar). Formed in Portland, the band has found solace in autonomy, taking full rein behind the album’s production and artwork, and releasing it on their own label, New Moss Records. Their namesake is a 1996 Patti Smith track, but Boudreaux’s vocals bear little similarity to Smith’s acrobatic yelps. The group is more likely to summon comparisons with a certain other female-dominated Portland garage-rock quartet, albeit without Carrie Brownstein’s six-stringed savagery to heighten the equation. Still, like Wild Flag, the band is at its best when traces of fury seep slyly into the mix. Try the galloping “The Hand”, which finds Boudreaux raising alarm about “the pain in my chest/ the hand ’round my neck” in a sinister pre-chorus, or the grungy, melodic “Hey/I Was Saved”, with a Kim Deal bassline to match the partial Pixies song title. Elsewhere, “Wear Me Out” is a sharp blues stomper and “Sounds” another bracingly effective, if simplistic, melodic progression.
But this is simple stuff, and Summer Cannibals’ meat-and-potatoes production plain and unpretentious without even lo-fi flourishes leaves you wondering if a producer might not have brought some added kick. Not a note is wasted on No Makeup‘s brash declaration, but there isn’t anything extra to transcend its straightforward revelry either.
Essential Tracks: “The Hand”, “Hey/I Was Saved”, and “Wear Me Out”