BITCH QUEENS – Party Hard(ly) EP

From the Basel underground, Switzerland’s Bitch Queens mix sleazy hard rock and a classic punk attitude in a way that’s impossible to ignore. This four track release is the perfect distillation of their sound, as well as a shameless celebration of glam rock’s trashier excesses. One listen to the title cut is enough for their massive sound to win over the unsuspecting genre fan with its relentless barrage of gang vocals, shout along hook and generally crashy mood. It’s the kind of tune that Gluecifer would’ve driven into people’s ears back in the 90s, yet at the same time, it has a certain freshness that suggests these Queens could give the sleazier end of the rock scene a welcome kick up the arse.

For all of the tune’s massive balls, though, Bitch Queens also smart enough to know that decent musicianship is vital in making their anthemic and punky hard rock sound fly. Beneath the raucousness and sheer bombast, guitarist Melchior Quitt constantly throws out siren like lead sounds that really help to stoke up the energy of the piece, and second guitarist Daniel Schonenberger adopts an almost equally powerful stance when he underscores everything with a tough rhythm where muted chords dominate. In these respects, the music is almost as aggressive as the vocal, and with a huge along hook in place that’s simple enough to win over an audience in record time, the band cannot fail. A similar approach supplies the heart of ‘Recycled Youth’, a full throttle punk and roll number where dirty and distorted guitars challenge the bass for dominance. Here, Marcel Colomb outs himself as the band’s secret weapon as he chugs through a four stringed death rattle as if channelling both Duff McKagan and Dee Dee Ramone simultaneously. That bass really makes the track, but the arrival of a twin guitar with the subtlety of a truck and an even bigger vocal whoah – drawing from UK punk’s second wave in an almost football chant styled way – ensures that the band’s less than subtle approach to almost everything wins out. By the time Quitt launches into a trashy lead guitar break and the vocals indulge in a huge call and response and Harry Darling’s drums demonstrate a really solid sound, this number appears to pack a whole world of noisy musical treats into a little over two minutes. In doing so, it becomes a great, lean but loud showcase for the band’s talents.

Diving further into retro punk, the opening of ‘These Secrets’ borrows from Sex Pistols, but beyond that, more of a punk ‘n’ roll attitude is observed via a rollocking rhythm, more muted chords and another round of gang vocals. Although those rousing gang vox are a little overdone here, the tune has its own charm, and its nice to hear a few of the lead guitars during the later parts of the track tipping the hat to the CBGB’s forefathers – especially Dead Boys and tracks like ‘Sonic Reducer’ – but, once again, toughened up a little and given a more modern production, in line with Bitch Queens’ best work. Following a lengthy intro where spooky voices and samples conjure a dark mood, ‘Be No Evil’ thrashes through some more high octane punk ‘n’ roll where a really scratchy vocal and metal-edged guitar work results in a more challenging listen. With the focus on riffs and moods – and noise – rather than song, it’s trashier than usual, but if you can make it past the more abrasive elements, a cracking lead guitar solo lifts the mood considerably. A couple of superb guitar moments and a strong call and response vocal on the chorus help this track to come into its own, but it’s definitely the EP’s weak link.

The genuine highlight, hands down, ‘Stay Here Forever’ takes a more melodic route, but doesn’t lose any of the band’s punchiness. Drummer Harry takes over lead vocal duties and in its immediately obvious he’s the band’s best singer, and even with him side lining the shoutier aspects for some melodic hard rock vibes, Bitch Queens still maintain a very hard edged presence. A brilliantly handled bass powering throughout further suggests that Colomb is vital in giving this band its toughness, while Harry’s quieter delivery evokes memories of classic Billy Idol, and of that brief period in the early 90s when big haired rock took a bigger and sometimes darker turn. A slightly rowdier hook brings everything a little more in line with some of BQ’s other material, but the real joy in this track comes from those more thoughtful verses where, deliberately or not, the band appear to have imbibed the best bits of Bang Tango’s ‘Dancin’ On Coals’ LP.

Obviously, Bitch Queens aren’t about narrative, introspection or any naval gazing musical pursuits. This is pure and unadulterated trashiness, meant to be enjoyed at maximum volume, loaded with tunes that’ll really come into their own in front of a sweat-drenched crowd. In terms of disposable party rock, they’ve got so much in their favour, and when taking the occasional step back for something a little more melodic, they sound even better. This may only be an EP, but its five songs bring both attitude and variety in a way that makes it feel satisfyingly full. A recommended listen.

September 2022