Sounds Like: Les filles des riot; French feminist punks with switchblades
For Fans of: Early Hole; Early Babes in Toyland; nouveau riot grrrl that doesn't Xerox Bikini Kill
Why You Should Pay Attention: This Parisian quartet named their band after a serially abused British girl who, at age 11, was convicted of strangling two young boys. That theme of acting out and seeking vengeance juts shardlike through Mary Bell's gripping guitars, with vocalist Alice Carlier growling and screaming like she's ready to pounce. "Gaïlla [Montanier, drummer] was always telling me to scream more because I was shy," says Carlier. "I didn’t really know if they liked it, apparently they did!"
The band self-titled first album, edition of 500, dropped in January on French punk label Danger Records, and it's full of rebuttals to masculinist status quo and straight-up declarations of rejection. "I really can’t imagine playing music without being political," says guitarist Victoria Arfi, something that's reflected in their nervousness about France's upcoming presidential election. "A new scandal erupts every two days and this is so part of the political institution right now that the people are gonna vote knowingly for those corrupted bastards." The band's vivid songwriting, though, tends to focus on more specific vignettes, coming in short bursts. The album's longest track, "Trash Tongue," is two minutes and 35 seconds, a grimy little bop about embodying womanly multiplicities, being "anything I wanna be, I don't care what you think about me."
They Say: "Most people who come to our gigs are very supportive, either women or men. But sexism is so deeply anchored in mentality, that even when people try to be nice, they say or write some very weird stuff," says Arfi. "Sound engineers sometimes behave like assholes because we are women. Most of the time, they think that as I am a woman, my guitar sound should be clear, with a lot of treble. I remember playing at a venue in Northern Paris once, and the sound engineer telling me at the end of the show, 'Seeing you with your cute little dress, I really had no idea you could sound like a stoner guitarist.'"
Hear for Yourself: The simmering road rage of "Fire Fire" calls to mind the Hendrix song with a similar name – if the woman he addressed in it responded with a middle finger and dumped her beer on him. It tells a full story in just one minute, punk at its most blissfully compact. Julianne Escobedo Shepherd