Wax Chattels & Cable Ties – Whammy Backroom: February

Wax Chattels and Cable Ties were stuffed into Whammy’s Backroom last night and The 13th Floor’s Simon Coffey managed to squeeze in.

Wax Chattels have been torn asunder for rua/two plus years due to members being on differing continents, these missed stalwarts of the Aotearoa music scene reunited for Camp A Low Hum with tonight’s show being a fortuitous result (though sadly they had to cancel Wax Chattelstheir appearance at CALM’s first weekend and their Poneke/Wellington show with Holy Fuck due to ‘illness’)

The trio of Amanda Cheng, Peter Ruddell and Tom Leggett I think, last played Tamaki Makaurau at the Flying Nun 40th Anniversary Concert in 2021. So it is not unexpected that tonight’s show has sold out, thus only the favoured few  (aka organised) can once again experience Wax Chattels mathematically co-constructed walls of reverberations, layers of sonic simplicity, and their fluid flails between punk, electronica and artistry! That was a mouthful!

Since inception in 2015, over four albums, Naarm/Melbourne-based frenetic punk rockers Jenny McKechnie (Guitar/Vocals), Nick Brown (Bass) and Shauna Boyle (Drums) collectively known as Cable Ties have delivered their take on the 3 minute-ish punk tune to the world. Cable Ties were last here in 2019, whence they wowed at Whammy playing with The Echo Oh’s. Actually, they played the night before in the same venue with another Australian act, Party Dozen, Righto, moving along…!

Cable Ties

Like a juggernaut, Cable Ties’ bass-driven punk fills the room immediately, and the band’s twin vocals from Jenny and Shauna are a difference that captures. As they power through Cable Tiestheir first two songs, Jenny McKechnie’s guitar sound triggers memories of Australian legends Radio Birdman and a little of Adelaide’s Exploding White Mice, whilst her vocal style had me already comparing her to singers from The Slits (Ari Up) and X-Ray Spex (Poly Styrene)

Cable Ties (earlier) post-punk side comes hither on Tell Them Where To Go, from their 2020 album Far Enough, based on symbiotic beats and groove created by drums and bass, and layered over with angled guitar riffs. It certainly gets the audience involved, creating masses of kinetic energy in the room, though Jenny is already creating her own as she treads a well-trodden pathway on the stage. 

Cable Ties, softer, slower side is on display in Lani also from Far Enough, it has a retro feel reminiscent of early Fleetwood Mac (at their best) which almost acts as a marker midway through their set. Thoughts Back from last year’s All Her Plans has a Go-Go’s/B52s pop-punk feel, sung (mostly) by the drummer, it is a danceable pop-punk that relaunches the energy into the room. Technical issues with Jenny’s guitar are adroitly masked using aural smoke and mirrors until a makeshift is sorted, Cable Ties are professional to the core, and it’s a welcome chance to hear more of Nick and Shauna’s drum n bass prowess.

Eight years of stagecraft shine through Cable Ties final song, effortlessly teased out of the audience by chatty bassist Nick Brown. Jenny is confident and commanding on the whole stage as Cable Ties harks back to the guitar-energised anthem that started their show. But like the rest of the night, it evolves mid-song into an anarchic crescendo, as Jenny’s guitar is catapulted and taken over in the audience. A marvellous ending, though I feel pangs of regret that I didn’t come to see them the night before.

Wax Chattels

It begins…

Efficiency (from Clot 2020) is a memento of past live experiences and triggers attention from the crowd. It is like a statement, Wax Chattels are back, albeit briefly and temporarily. The three are energised, and hungry, it could almost be 2020, Tom and Amanda are still impressive figures on stage, though Peter’s neo-(Howard) Devoto hairstyle has now been replaced by a close shave, I’m torn.

Wax ChattelsIt’s two from Clot and then Shrinkage from their 2018 ST album appears, the majestic memories flood back, as Tom creates taonga on his frugal drumkit. Amanda’s bass volume feels not LOUD ENOUGH in the mix, but that may be my fractured hearing, her performance, presence and mass of magic boxes is core to Wax Chattels’ sound.

As they weave through an even dozen songs from their two past albums, familiar songs appear now and then, from past glorious shows, and raise the audience’s energy levels and delight. Tonight I feel Wax Chattels are darker, more industrial, more avant-garde, perhaps fueled, inspired and excited by playing together again in Tamaki Makaurau.

Peter Ruddell dryly announces they have four more songs and no encore, and launch into Yokohama, it showcases drummer Tom Leggett’s drum intrigues, and the way he breaches convention in utilising his enhancements.

Through the four, as Wax Chattels counts down, so does the audience, with a finite ending in sight, the people grasp at chances to dance a move, though the three on stagec are not always accommodating. It finishes too soon, and likely won’t be repeated too soon, but there’s a glimmer of hope somewhere in there.

 Simon Coffey

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Wax Chattels:
Cable Ties: