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Bursting with Economy – Summer Cannibals’ debut “Show Us Your Mind”

Summer Cannibals
Show Us Your Mind
New Moss Records

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‘Oh no,’ we can hear you groan, ‘not another band from up there.’ Well, before you fall prey to an acute case of Portland fatigue, hear me out. Or, rather, hear this album out. Bold and brassy (without any brass), it displays a sonic-forward momentum that’s right enough in sound, texture, and stance to exert some claim over their own limb on the Sonics-derived musical tree up around these parts, if one that clearly branches out from the Portland-Olympia axis during the final decade of the 20th century. A not unvibrant time in a not unvibrant place, and though Summer Cannibals are in no way strictly indebted to that particular movement, they’re certainly propelled by it.

Much of which, it should be said, comes down to lead singer Jessica Boudreaux’s sincere, out-front petulance and the attitude that issues from it, the band following her lead with an explosive-yet-compact swagger. A club band with whiplash-like pop smarts, one suspects that if MTV were looking for a band to spearhead their return to actual music-based relevance (yeah, I know, a radical notion), it couldn’t find a stronger, more appropriate candidate. Hell, there’s even a track on here called “TV,” a pensive quiet-loud mid-tempo album closer that skewers the oh-so-easyness of falling in love our idiot box culture still overwhelmingly presents as the norm. A neat thematic summary of what’s come before – as well as being attended by another head-turning solo from Marc Swart, all succinct rock classicism and shiny grungy edges; this album, just so you know, is shamelessly guitar-centric – it seals the impression gathered throughout that here we have an album assembled with an eye and ear to structure, the track flow balanced as few albums bother being these days.

sum canns

Slightly bratty, slightly more-than-driving and a lot riotous, “All It Takes” opens the record with a kick in the early 90’s head, the churn und drang refreshingly in our face even as the rockin’ bona fides are present and adroitly accounted for (garage-precise solo, a rhythm section punching holes in the drywall of said garage). “Something New” follows, its drums a virtual Jody Bleyle tribute, which is to say a thunderous, propulsive marvel of syncopation (here in the hands of Devon Shirley) that the band keep an able pace with until we’ve got ourselves quite the pop-punk juggernaut that reminds of no less than the Rezillos, which, dunno about you, but that can’t help but make this writer giddy. “Show Us Your Mind” completes the introductory trifecta with a trampling, bass-led tumble that’s possibly the punk-dancin’est indictment of a loser scenester that’s ever been committed to tape and makes short work of proving its worth as the record’s title track.

That trio of compact stompers nailed neatly in place, we get the relative breather of “That Feeling,” with its touch of teenage pop angst and girl group romanticism gone slightly astray, a kind of updated backdated take on Patti Smith’s “Gloria” that, should they ask, I’ll recommend as Show Us Your Mind‘s next single, it’s got that summer chart action feel to it.

And so it goes. The muscular rumble of “Don’t Make Me Beg” (“I’m a little less patient than I was yesterday”) gives way to the irascible shimmer and rage of “Afraid To Feel” that in turn hands it off to the blitzkrieg swing of “Summer” that boasts a vocal that sounds like Cindy Lauper in studded leather and another soaring solar flare of a fuzztone solo. From there a final clutch of porch burners – the pick of which is “Not Your Turn” with the verve and aggro of prime L7 turned up to 8 and the spry turn of a Jenny Logan bass break – before the aforementioned “TV” and then we’re out, that sense inescapable of having just heard a record that hit its marks with a boisterous precision and ended exactly the second it should have. Economic, yes, but bursting with economy (no track here exceeds four minutes and over half are under three), Show Us Your Mind makes an enduring virtue out of being recklessly concise.