Cable Ties - Far Enough Music Album Reviews

The Australian punk trio, formed in the wake of the beloved Wet Lips, are at their best channeling their political rage into small moments.

Jenny McKechnie doesn’t mince words. After her Melbourne punk trio Wet Lips found themselves billed on a gig as the token “girl act,” she unleashed her frustration on the fiery “Can’t Take It Anymore”: “Do you think you're an individual? You're just another guy in a Bad Seeds t-shirt...You’re so rock and roll,” she sneered, pointed disses splattering like drops of lye. But after their shudderingly short and loud self-titled LP and a few 7”s, Wet Lips declared an indefinite hiatus. Cable Ties, formed in its wake by McKechnie along with bassist Nick Brown and drummer Shauna Boyle, turns the same acerbic fury outward, transforming hyper-specific callouts of a toxic, male-dominated scene into broader, more explicit calls to action on their second full-length Far Enough.

Melbourne has become known for a thriving female-oriented rock community, with bands like Camp Cope, Chelsea Bleach, and Amyl and the Sniffers showcasing the city’s rowdy pub scene abroad. But by many accounts, this was a hard-won and recent development, one paved largely by McKechnie herself. With Wet Lips, she started WetFest, a backyard festival that showcases female and gender non conforming-led punk groups, one that is now held annually with a slate of new musicians. That DIY ethos, one that promotes channeling rage into creativity, defines the spirit of Far Enough.

That’s not to suggest there’s a lack of fury. It’s endemic in their sound—the rumbling bass that cuts through Boyle’s crackling drums; the guitars blown up with reverb. Though invigorating, the instrumentation is hardly novel; the record often leans on familiar garage-rock tropes, so much so that it often dips into homogeneity and predictability. But the band also leaves plenty of room for McKechnie’s booming vocals, by far the band’s most impactful instrument. At once pliable and willful, her voice might morph from a biting howl to a striking vibrato in the span of a verse. Like X-Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene, she occasionally wields it like a weapon, barking about “blood and theft and war” on “Anger’s Not Enough.” That palpable intensity makes the moments where she does regain control of pitch and melody, as on the surprisingly sweet “Lani,” all the more striking, a delicate counterbalance to the band’s grittiness.

But where the vocals lend a sense of ingenuity and innovation, Cable Ties’ lyrics too often fall flat. For a group so ingrained in Melbourne’s feminist punk scene, it is disappointing and even a bit confusing to see the group grasp at dated tropes when trying to stir underrepresented groups to action. “Self-Made Man,” the band’s attempt at an anti-capitalist anthem, is juvenile in its hackneyed critiques, with statements like “He don’t make when he creates/When he takes, he takes away” so broad that they are rendered ineffectual. At times, the band’s attempt at fomenting revolution is so anachronistic that it runs the risk of being regressive. On “Tell Them Where to Go,” what is ostensibly meant to be a searing battle cry for non-male musicians, McKechnie tries to trace an origin story of feminist punk but again settles for obvious platitudes. “Why don’t you walk out your bedroom and steal your brother’s guitar?” she screams, seemingly unaware of the binaries this reinforces. It comes off as tone-deaf, a facile and unsubtle gesture at third-wave feminism that feels immediately outmoded.

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The record’s strongest moments instead track more personal politics, the unavoidable contradictions and anxieties that build up simply from participating in a capitalist, patriarchal system. “Hope,” which begins with just a guitar and McKechnie’s voice, takes a more stream-of-consciousness approach: “I’m getting asthma as I run for the train/Is it genetic from my family or is it just harder to breathe these days?” These quiet musings, which connect literal family history to broader political sentiments, paint a more nuanced picture of leftism: fighting with family members over political parties, grappling with feelings of guilt for not fighting hard enough.

It also leaves room for more positive emotions, as tentative as they might be. “It might be hopeless but if I lose hope I bring on that ending,” she sings, wearily but determined. The surprisingly jaunty closer “Pillow” is similarly autobiographical, a sort of “Cat’s Cradle” or “100 Years” for the Doomer generation, tracking her 25th and 26th birthdays through rising sea levels and rising conservatism. The addition of a pounding piano progression and layered vocal accompaniment on the last verse lends weight to her frustrations. There’s a novel terror in admitting that individual radicalism cannot change the world. But Cable Ties succeed when they build collective strength out of that fear.


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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Cable Ties - Far Enough Music Album Reviews Cable Ties - Far Enough Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Wednesday, April 01, 2020 Rating:

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