WAAX – At Least I’m Free
Released: August 12, 2022
Maz DeVita // Vocals
James Gatling // Guitar
Ewan Birtwell // Guitar
Tom Bloomfield // Drums
It’s 2015, and I have taken the guy I am seeing to BIGSOUND to try to impress him. He thinks I lack hobbies and interests, and for the most part – he’s right. But I am showing him one of my biggest interests- seeing live music. Earlier that year, I saw WAAX support Tired Lion and was captivated by their vocalist Maz Devita – I’d never really seen a performer like her. So we’re watching WAAX’s BIGSOUND set. Once again, I can’t take my eyes off Maz and come away from the frantic performance a fan. Now it’s 2022 and that guy stuck around, I’ve seen WAAX numerous times, and they are releasing their second album, At Least I’m Free.
The album opens with the ambient piano tones of ‘Mermaid Beach’, and from the first refrains, you get the feeling this album will be pretty different from its predecessor, the band’s debut Big Grief. The lyrics say, “I’ve never been so sad in my life/but I’ve never danced so much, “ which sums up this album’s sad but lively feel.
Next is the single ‘Read Receipts’, which starts with a great guitar riff and excellent driving drums. This song is about being left on read and being out late at night – angry and sad because you don’t know what’s going on with the person you’re seeing, and man, can’t we all relate? Maz’s vocal delivery in this song isn’t as biting and angry as it can get, but conveys that same feel.
Maz says that even though this album is about a breakup like Big Grief was, she isn’t as “fuck you” this time and doesn’t want to hold a grudge and hate people. ‘Man Like Me’ is a breakup song with a kinder message saying, “I hope you learn to love yourself/ I hope you find peace / I hope you remember me”. Next is ‘No Doz’, which features K-Flay (huge) and takes the album to a much more experimental place. Initially, I didn’t know how I felt about this song because it is so different, but I think it is growing on me, and I will always respect bands trying new things and developing. The bass and drums in this song are also incredible.
‘Most Hated Girl’ takes us back to the angrier, punkier WAAX that sees Maz mad about the way women are treated by society (feels). This song is one of my favourites on the album, and the backing vocals in the last chorus are fantastic. ‘Beam Me Up’ gets back to melodic and introspective with the lyrics saying “For no good reason I can’t keep you / even though I really want to” and “I just wanted you to know/ I will always love you”. To me, this song is one of the most heartbreaking on quite a heartbreaking record, and I love the passionate way the vocals are delivered. The song also features fantastic guitar solos. From one melodic, introspective song to another, we go into ‘Dangerous’, which features haunting piano and gorgeous vocals.
The pace picks back up with ‘Jeff On The Streets’, a super fun song starting iconically with “twenty-twenty was cursed / I wish I never was birthed”, and the punk comes back in with ‘Help Me Hell’. This is one of the songs that gets closest to the last album and has a fun part that says, “Dear Diary Mood apathetic” Emo kids, where you at? We get the angrier WAAX with ‘Same Bitch’ – a fun song with fantastic instruments and another of my favourites. Finishing out the album is ‘Whoever’ which tells the story of staying together out of fear of being alone even though neither one is happy and is another sadder song set to nice, fairly happy music. It is a great way to round out a varied album that explores various emotions and sounds.
To be honest, when I first listened to this album, I didn’t think I liked it much. Initially, it sounded like WAAX had become another band with the same – Aussie band played on *that* youth radio station – sound. I thought they had lost their bite, their point of difference and the thing that made them stand out from the others. Upon a few listens, you hear that while the bitterness has gone – that uniqueness is still there; they just aren’t as angry anymore. Instead of an album full of anger, At Least I’m Free gives us a range of emotions – it’s sad and angry at times but also hopeful and at peace. I don’t know if it will be an album I go back to in its entirety, and it didn’t kick me in the dick like Big Grief did. But there are definitely some highlights, and it is well worth a listen.
WAAX – At Least I’m Free tracklisting:
1. Mermaid Beach
2. Read Receipts
3. A Man Like Me
4. No Doz
5. Most Hated Girl
6. Beam Me Up
8. Jeff On The Streets
9. Help Me Hell
10. Same Bitch
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