Live Review

Cable Ties, Our Carlson, WHALEHOUSE @ The Zoo

- My first experience of Cable Ties’ live show was several years ago at the now closed -and much missed- Tym Guitars. At that point the group was mostly unknown and touring in support of their self-titled, debut album. How far the group have come since then! Though not so far physically, as the back stairs of tonight’s venue, The Zoo, open out only a few feet away from the former site of the legendary guitar/record store/live venue. Musically however, Cable Ties have gone from strength to strength and they return to The Zoo having just released their most powerful album yet, the incredible, All Her Plans. Our Carlson, the originator of Epileptic Dance Music and local bug songstresses WHALEHOUSE provided support for what proved to be an eclectic, yet highly entertaining, night out.

WHALEHOUSE sing an awful lot about insects. Why so many songs about, or that reference, bugs? Apparently, drummer Sonya Chamberlain “is a scientist who counts bugs for a living,” at least if vocalist and sometime guitarist Zoe Wilson can be believed. With how much each of the group’s members, which also includes Amy-Rose Lawson on guitar, laugh after each statement, it is hard to confirm what is fact and what is fiction. WHALEHOUSE -“one word, all capitals”- do not muck around when it comes to songs, though they still allow time for jokes. They performed their entire back-catalogue within the forty-minute set, possibly even calling it quits a few minutes short of their allotted time, advising the audience that they, “don’t have any songs left.”

While WHALEHOUSE may lack an extensive discography, they certainly do not fall short in terms of energy. Their enthusiasm was so infectious it had most of the audience dancing for the duration of their set. I had never seen the group live before, despite being familiar with many of their songs, such as, Trapped in a Room, Cheato Doreato and the hilarious, Fresh Bread, each of which was performed with gusto. WHALEHOUSE kicked the night off with bang, bringing the energy early and provided a humorous foil to the other acts whose music, while no less entertaining, tackles subjects far more serious and confronting than the difficulty of slicing a fresh loaf of bread.

During Our Carlson’s first few songs, you could quite literally see the crowd sitting on a fence of indecision, unsure of what to make of the spectacle on stage. Decked out in spray-painted denim and backed by DJ Cash Daddy -AKA Cash Savage of Cash Savage and the Last Drinks- Carlson paced back and forth whilst yelling over a mixed bag of electronic beats and samples. Sounding a little like a rural Australian mix of Sleaford Mods and EDM, Our Carlson is at first hard to decipher, requiring one to look beyond the performance and pay attention to his words.

Diagnosed as an epileptic at 33, Carlson has since channelled his anger, confusion and anxiety into music. Despite being howlingly funny, he very openly and vulnerably voices the struggles and frustrations of living with a permanent disability. Railing against the structures that only serve to restrict those living with disabilities, as well as those that struggle with addiction and mental health, Carlson’s music is far more intelligent than its appearance lets on. Though his methods may seem a tad unsound, this is serious stuff, albeit served up with a backing track of party vibes.

Cable Ties’ singer and guitarist, Jenny McKechnie has definitely been studying up on classic rock guitar moves. Referencing everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Angus Young, by way of Pete Townshend, she hops, struts, jumps and butt-wiggles her way around The Zoo’s small stage and, given her already athletic playing, her energy and flexibility are nothing short of impressive. In addition to her six-string acrobatics, when she sings, she never misses a cue, or a note. Backed by bassist Nick Brown and drummer Shauna Boyle, Cable Ties have been performing since 2015 and have released three records, their self-titled debut in 2017, Far Enough in 2020 and All Her Plans in June of this year.

Acclaimed upon release, All Her Plans received accolades from both national and international outlets and even caught the attention of punk legend Henry Rollins; who could not stop singing the band’s praises on his recent tour of Australia. This attention is not undeserved, for their latest album contains all the angular, danceable punk songs the band are known for, whilst addressing the difficult, though, for many, relatable topics of trauma, mental health, addiction and incarceration. Not surprisingly, the group performed the majority of their new album, bar one song, Silos, with only three songs culled from Far Enough and one from their debut. Given Jenny’s recent chat with 4ZZZ’s very own Locked In show, the recipients of an onstage shout-out, it was surprising they neglected Silos, a song which examines the effects of disadvantage and the cycle of reoffending that traps those individuals caught up in the prison system.

Given the band’s energy, coupled with the vulnerability and relatability of their lyrics, choosing a highlight from the set is no easy task. Cable Ties’ new songs showcase an increase in confidence and maturity that has always been hinted at but which is now glaringly obvious, merely reiterating the fact that All Her Plans is easily the band’s greatest work, thus far. Launching with album opener Crashing Through, followed by lead single Perfect Client, the group kept the intensity levels high until Jenny’s mid-set introduction to a truly heartfelt performance of Mum’s Caravan, relating the effect that family instability and addiction have had on her own family.

Lani, one of the few tracks played from Far Enough, a heartbreaking song that details the impact of family violence on young children, was even more emotionally charged when performed live. Its almost eight-minute length and slower pace differentiate it from the freneticism of the rest of the set. After Deep Breath Out, the group retired for a short break, then returned for a blistering jam on an, as yet, unreleased track. Ending with hugs between members and Jenny carrying Nick down the ramp to the backstage area, this final act demonstrated the band’s obvious affection for one another.

As with so many great bands and artists in general, Cable Ties’ willingness to be open and vulnerable with their audience is what makes their music so impactful. Bassist Nick Brown spoke of finding strength in the community of misfits he has connected with through music, demonstrating that there is truth in the oft-quoted notion of strength in numbers. Sometimes, simply knowing that you are not alone can be a powerful source of personal comfort and scanning the faces of the, very diverse, crowd it is clear that those assembled agree. Cable Ties are, at heart, a punk band and, inversely, a punk band with heart. Even within a genre that is too often considered to be one dimensional, Cable Ties prove that there is room for a band that can be many things, both brash and intelligent, aggressive yet sensitive and noisy while still being danceable.

- Nick Stephan.


Quick Listens

Les Jobson from Dreamkillers - teaser interview

Sasha Čuha: about 'Svetozar!' & electric gusle

4ZZZ's radio drama 'Connie' by Joel Quick

4ZZZ's radio drama 'Morph' by Kathryn Rothe

Opera at 4ZZZ with Milijana Nikolic, mezzo-soprano & Rosario La Spina, tenor

Eurovision Song Contest 2021 - review by Blair Martin

Gina Vanderpump - Miss Sportsman Hotel

4ZZZ's 45th Birthday special by Alex Oliver

Jack Vidgen - Eurovision: Australia Decides 2020

Jaguar Jonze - Eurovision: Australia Decides 2020

Mitch Tambo - Eurovision: Australia Decides 2020

Didirri - Eurovision: Australia Decides 2020

iOTA - Eurovision: Australia Decides 2020

RICHARD BELL The Venice Biennale EMBASSY 2019 4ZZZ Radio

OZONE Radio Play #001: Dog Park

Bloods Interview

Christopher Port on the New Releases Show

Didirri on Zedgeist


TRAILS takeover 4ZZZ Alphabet Soup PART 2

TRAILS takeover 4ZZZ Alphabet Soup PART 1

Port Royal performing "One of a Kind" live on 4ZZZ Alphabet Soup

Port Royal on Alphabet Soup


Dark Essence interview with Pop Will Eat Itself

Marc of Fingerless interview with Linda Dark on Alphabet Soup Pt 2

Marc of Fingerless interview with Linda Dark on Alphabet Soup Pt 1


Queer Radio interview with Jayde Westaby, "Tanya" in "Mamma Mia"

Queer Radio interview with Ian Stenlake, "Sam" in "Mamma Mia"