Cable Ties make politically charged punk-adjacent music that’s about as subtle as a motorcycle zooming down a suburban cul de sac. The issues that the Melbourne trio—made up of Jenny McKechnie, Shauna Boyle and Nick Brown—tackle span the massive (environmental decay, apocalyptic dread), the systematic (privilege, misogyny) and the personal (emotional abuse). Throughout the band’s sophomore album Far Enough, McKechnie’s fanged, righteous wail and fire-hot power chords recall the heyday of riot grrrl if the movement were updated to address specific 2020 concerns while offering profound new insights into the very issues that first drove punk’s most revolutionary subgenre.
It’s clear from Far Enough’s outset that listeners are in for 43 minutes of unsparing social commentary, even if Cable Ties’ energetic guitar mania isn’t immediately apparent. Opener “Hope” begins with only clean guitars and McKechnie’s voice, a wise musical combination for her swift evocation of intergenerational political differences: Her mentions of baby boomers and her Uncle Pete lambasting the “greenies” (environmentalists, for the non-Australians in the room) are impossible to miss over the quietude. As the band reaches its full explosiveness on the song’s chorus, McKechnie’s mantra that “If I can’t hope / Nothing’s ever gonna change / So let your eyes roll / You’ll still be cool when we’re in flames” makes it clear that Cable Ties aren’t your dad’s political punk band.
McKechnie insists that the title of Far Enough’s opener is one of the album’s main themes, but her lyrics point to little in the way of hope. Her band’s rage certainly feels more in line with urgency than optimism, with the trio’s musical ire effectively subsuming McKechnie’s cautiously sunny outlook. Good—the global water crisis detailed on the aptly titled, midtempo firestorm of “Anger’s Not Enough” and the sea-level rise and warming global temperatures named atop the piano-sprinkled overdrive of “Pillow” are emergencies that, as McKechnie concisely summarizes on the latter track, are “so much bigger than you and me.”
This realization might be why McKechnie sometimes channels her fury into problems closer to home, issues for which she might stand a chance of effecting tangible change. Atop the bassy growl of the scything, charging “Tell Them Where To Go,” she encourages non-men to dismiss the rampant sexism found in musical circles and “Walk out your bedroom and steal your brother’s guitar / Go see the folks who took rock back from blokes and who get who you really are / Just ignore them all and play.” On “Not My Story,” she confronts a past emotional abuser atop pummeling, barbed guitars: “Don’t wanna step back in your court… You did one too many things that made me feel like trash” and “Now I look for the line between being kind and being manipulated” are simple enough statements, but surely, many people need to hear them.
Plenty of people could also stand to hear McKechnie’s takes on the concise singles “Sandcastles” and “Self-Made Man.” “Sandcastles,” perhaps the most invigorating and body-rattling track here, lambasts people who topple political movements with infighting and their need to “get [their] power by always being right.” By the song’s end, when McKechnie says that these people “never stopped kicking down sandcastles,” she’s effectively rendered them adult babies. On “Self-Made Man,” a lacerating look at classism and privilege, McKechnie likewise infantilizes the song’s main character (“He got a leg up from his daddy” starkly contrasts the song’s title), and the rewards are as immense as the track’s seething riff and hair-raising vocal harmonies. If anything, Far Enough would have likely benefited from shifting toward shorter, more undeniably riotous songs like these and away from the several more complex, seven-minute-or-so songs present, but when you’re fighting the good fight, is there really time to fret about the little things?