Words by Brett Ensbey.
On May 27, 2019, one of my favourite Brisbane bands, The Cutaways, released their latest album ‘Wax Woman’. I was stoked to get the chance to review this, but honestly, it turned out to be more difficult than I first imagined. Mainly because I felt like the album could be summed up in three words: The f**king Cutaways. Enough said right? I thought so, but according to the few people I showed this to before submitting it, three words doesn’t actually count as a review, so I’m going to do my best to elaborate and give this album not only the praise but also the respect that it deserves.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with them, The Cutaways are a Brisbane based punk rock band, made up of guitarist/vocalist Emmy Hour, guitarist Ben Fishlock, bassist Marcus Wilson and drummer Peter Bosworth, who formed in 2016 and have accomplished quite a lot over the last three years including opening for bands such as Frenzal Rhomb and The Bennies.
When I heard that ‘Wax Woman’ had been released I headed over to the bands Bandcamp to check it out. Before listening to a single note on the album, I read what frontwoman Emmy had to say about it:
“It’s an album of a journey through life as a trans person: just like everyone, there’s highs and there’s lows. My experiences over the last 5 or so years are deeply personal but a journey I wanted to express in these songs. Identity, acceptance, growth, relationship breakdowns and attempts at building new ones. But overall strength and empowerment!! This is the message I hope comes through on this album.”
All I can say is that I hope she and the rest of the band are proud of their efforts on ‘Wax Woman’ because they really should be.
It really is difficult to put the overall feel of this album into words. As you listen, you are taken to so many different places that it’s challenging to pinpoint any one thing specifically. The album is a mix of hard-hitting and powerful music, reminiscent of bands like Anti-Flag and Rise Against. In addition to that, it also seems to carry with it a type of catchy pop-punk sensibility with just the right amount of whoa’s, guaranteed to stay in your head long after you’ve finished listening. Add strong, thought provoking, folk-punk style lyrics and Emmy’s raw and real vocals plus some amazing sounding backups in all the right places and you have all the ingredients for ‘Wax Woman’.
Every element seems to fall effortlessly into place to make this album what it is. The music and the lyrics work perfectly in unison to portray the emotion in each song. Although the stories told through the lyrics are Emmy’s stories to tell, the rest of the band did an awesome job at backing her words up and delivering the stories with a punch. No musician is left behind with each member playing a pivotal role in the narration of ‘Wax Woman’. Every instrument is played exactly as it needs to be to emphasise the lyrics, making the listener feel as if they are hearing the soundtrack to a story rather than a traditional album.
Alexandra K. Trenfor once said, “The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” Now I have no idea who that person is, it’s just something I read on the internet, but I think the same thing can be said about songwriters. A good songwriter will tell you their story and let you interpret it in any way that you need to, so it becomes something intimate for you. The Cutaways definitely do that on this album. Every lyric is deeply personal and full of emotion, but never once are you being told how to feel. Songs like the albums title track Wax Woman and Break Ups (which in my opinion is the type of song that every radio station in the country should be playing) are just a couple of great examples of this type of song writing, with lyrics that obviously have a lot of meaning to the writer but are written in such a way that they could be relatable to anybody. You don’t necessarily have to walk a mile in Emmy’s shoes to find something in these songs that speaks to you and your own experiences.
The best way I could think of to describe this album is music that makes you move and lyrics that make you think. Few songs illustrate this better than Dead Name, a song so full of raw emotion that you can’t help but try to imagine what the writer was going through when you listen to it.
Although there were no songs that I didn’t like on ‘Wax Woman’ there were definitely a few standout tracks. The first being In the Street, which also happens to be the first of hopefully many singles released off this album. This track was exactly the type of punk rock anthem I was hoping for when I started listening.
The next song that really stood out for me, and was probably my favourite on the album, was The Million Tiny Pieces. This one just had everything: great lyrics, a catchy chorus, a bass line that stuck in my head just as much as the chorus did and the strong message that no matter what’s going on in life, even if it all seems to be falling apart “you might find something along the way”. To me it just seems like one of those songs where the lyrics tell you something you need to hear, and you find yourself playing it back at different stages of your life because you need the reminder.
Now this one may seem like lazy writing or a bit of a cop out, but the track All the Way to the End genuinely does just speak for itself. I really don’t know how better to describe this song, except to say that absolutely every aspect of it holds your attention the entire way through, and somehow makes you question a lot of things before leaving you alone with your own thoughts. Well that’s what it did to me anyway.
I’m going to wrap this up now, otherwise I’ll be rambling all night, because I really loved this album and I hope I’ve done it justice in this review. Seriously though, if you’ve never checked out The Cutaways do yourself a favour and change that as soon as possible. Even if you’re not necessarily a fan of punk music, I recommend giving ‘Wax Woman’ a listen, there’s something on there for all rock fans. The band themselves describe their sound as “more rock than punk and more punk than rock” and I couldn’t have put it better myself.
‘Wax Woman’ by The Cutaways is available now. Head over to Bandcamp and get your copy today. https://thecutaways.bandcamp.com/