Can’t Tell Me No, Summer Cannibals’ newest album, starts with a lot of expectations. From the very beginning, “False Anthem” proclaims the anger and indignation of the lyrics. The feelings are immediately explored. “Can’t Tell Me No” follows letting you know that Summer Cannibals won’t take your shit or anyone else’s. This album is undeniably feminist and it’s strong. Despite the strength of the message and the conviction of its delivery, the sound does not always match. Even through the heavy bass riffs, there feels like something is missing.
The lyrics are personal, yet share a clear belief. They are biting and witty, yet often reflective. Though looking at the past can be useless if nothing changes, Can’t Tell Me No never falls into this dilemma. People of the past were problematic, but the future has brought independence and strength. Time has brought change because there is no longer the problems of the past. There is nothing and no one to be the negative influence anymore. Through the harsh edges of the lyrics, the album is overall hopeful not only for the future but also for the now.
For the most part, Can’t Tell Me No is a slow album. After the opening two tracks, the tempo takes a slow turn. The songs move deliberately as different instruments come and go giving a dynamic feeling to many of the songs. Held together by the drums and bass, the sound grows and shrinks in interesting ways as the different instrumentation comes and goes. There could be a power in the slow, steady pounding of each song, but instead the songs feels dragged out. The songs go on a little longer than what feels comfortable and seem to never end.
The vocals are a strong point on the album. They are clean and emphasize the changes in mood. The singing ranges from soft, slow, and smooth as found in “Into Gold” to the quick, aggressive range found in tracks like “False Anthem” or “Can’t Tell Me Know.” Regardless of the change in style or tone, the vocals do an excellent job of conveying the emotion of each track and the album as a whole. They never seem out of place or overplayed.
Overall, Can’t Tell Me No feels loose through a full listen. Beyond the songs that seem to drag on, not everything seems coherent. Though an excellent song, “Staring At the Sun” is the worst example of seeming out of place in the album both thematically and in its more lo-fi sound. Even through the strength of songs like “False Anthem” and “One of Many,” the album lacks the tightness through its track lengths and tracklist to carry interest through a full listen.