Review: Wax Chattels at Whammy Bar
Words By Ali Nicholls // Images By Connor Crawford
Back from their year-long hiatus, Wax Chattels bring their bone-splintering live performance back to Whammy Bar, Auckland, to mark the release of their latest single, ‘No Ties’.
Over the course of their musical lives together, Auckland’s Wax Chattels have gained a reputation as an unmissable live act on the local punk scene. The trio’s stripped-back, finely-tuned sound and monochromatic aesthetic gives the illusion of simplicity, upon which they have continuously layered gripping and confronting material both sonically and conceptually. Known for their expert balance between the minute and the maniacal, their work thus far has both thrived upon and challenged tropes of the punk genre, bringing out its very core through their frenetic delivery.
Blistering their way through the muddy confusion of a three month isolation, their latest single ‘No Ties’ heralds a new album, and a new depth of reflection and reaction to life in Aotearoa. This release, being led by bassist and vocalist Amanda Cheng, speaks to the entanglements navigated by first generation migrants and the unique emotional palette that she carries as a legacy of her parents’ search for a change of life.
Described by Cheng in a statement about the single as encapsulating ‘the weight of parental sacrifice and cultural estrangement’, the group are collectively redefining the boundaries of Tāmaki’s underground sound and elevating perspectives that are actively buried through our mainstream media. Carried by their unrelenting accuracy, they hurl shard upon shard of cutting perspective at their audiences. It’s not about shock factor. It’s a tight grip around your arm and a steady eye contact and a demand that you don’t turn away from the realities that we all share. It’s a twisting of the lens to bring our worlds into a sharp and uncompromising focus. It’s as much a recognition of experience as a fuck you to erasure. The penetrating gaze of Wax Chattels’ sound doesn’t let you look away.
Their live presence scratched a new standard of performance into the slate of Tamaki’s punk scene, and in their home ground Whammy they re-established a presence that the crowd has been thirsty for since their last gig at The Other’s Way festival almost a year ago. The night is opened by Memory Foam, a high intensity futurist punk get up fronted by vocalist Yuko Miyoshi delivering bi-lingual elevated vocals over fast-paced drums and laser-like synths. Na Noise follows, with an old-school feminist punk sound layered with a kind of 60s roadhouse-meets-80s rugby club cool. And suddenly, it’s like Wax Chattels never took a break.
Playing a mix of songs from their first album and soon-to-be-released material from their new LP ‘Clot’, the band guides us through the jagged facets of their sound one jaw-clenching track at a time.
Opening with a new track ‘You Were Right’, right off the bat we’re back into their hypnotic live presence. The new single ‘No Ties’ follows. Peter Ruddell swirls around his Nord, concocting a sinister brew of synthetic noise that he slashes open with hammered keys. ‘Stay Disappointed’, ‘It’, and ‘Shrinkage’ call back to their first album as Tom Leggett slowly embodies a carnal animalism on his kit, which is completed stripped back to the signature kick, snare, high hat, and ride (each cymbal smashed to shit to wrench out the metallic clanging style of the drums).
The crowd is waving with the force of their own eagerness in a constant push and pull to the stage. ‘Efficiency’, ‘Glue’, and ‘Cede, open up the mouth of their new release again. These tracks bare their teeth, with the same grinding abrasion as their previous album. There’s something a little more crisp about them. Not cleaner in style, but perhaps more precise. Leggett and Ruddell are completely drawn into their instrumental conversation, and Cheng’s vocals have become more salient in this new material. It feels as though they struck their stride right off the bat and have only refined it since.
‘NRG’ is followed up by another new piece, ‘Spanners’. The night rounds off with ‘In My Mouth’ as the possessed crowd is carried from the lulling throb of the synths to the scrambled and clawed euphoria of the frenzied drums that sees the set to a close.
The cold-sweat grip of anticipation for the upcoming release is awake in all that attended the show. It promises to be as unrelenting and uncompromising as their last, to bring their experiences into sharp focus, and to once again set a new precedent for the punk music scene in Aotearoa. Keep your eyes open for new tracks and shows to get a taste of Tāmaki’s best.
Check the exhilarating first single from Wax Chattels’ upcoming album below.