Over the last couple of years, and over a good number of brilliant live performances, Indian Queens have done something that every band should do before releasing their first long player: they have built very strong foundations for it to stand on. They have refined their sound, made it immediately recognisable in all its trademark components: the balance of rough and delicate in the vocals, the hard-edged, almost trance-like bass lines, the lively changes of rhythm dictated by drums. It is a sound very specific to this band, which plays heavily in creating an atmospheric mood but doesn’t shy away from harsher sounds when they are needed. In this sense, God Is A Woman, the band’s debut album out in early April, is the logical culmination of a fairly linear trajectory. It is certainly a very “Indian Queens-sounding” album, but with a number of imperfections now whittled down and removed, and some additional depth. The vocals still preserve their peculiar quality of being fluid in places and scratchy in others, but they are now generally more full-bodied; the haunting bass is still there, even more noticeable than in the past, also thanks to a very tight and attentive production.
The sense of familiarity is increased by the fact that live gig attendees will immediately recognise a number of favourites in the track list. The intense, almost hypnotic ‘I Get No Rest‘ gets an airing, placed in a core point at the centre of the album, and so do old singles ‘Pretty Little Thing,’ featuring one of the trademark riffs of this album and some beautifully dirty guitars, and ‘Us Against The World,’ which only deceptively seems a lighter piece compared to the intensity and complexity of other tracks. Indian Queens have always had a fairly wide range of nuance and this record is a good display of that: from the more delicate touches offered by tracks like ‘Concrete Lips‘ (which, in spite of the title, has a very soft touch and airy atmosphere, aided by an excellent interplay of vocals) to a bold use of distortion in songs such as ‘Warning Sign,’ which starts with an almost outlandish sound and then plays with more subtle touches of dissonance around its guitars, or ‘Shoot For Sexy,’ which has an inventive, immediately recognisable opening and a very bold command of high notes, and is one of the most original songs on this record.
They are also a band of many influences, and it is an interesting experiment to try and track them all, as pleasant as it also is to just jump in without too much cerebral thinking and go with the flow. There is something distinctly grunge in the choices made with the rhythm section, particularly in the bass, and a touch of psychedelic rock, ’80s style, in tracks like ‘You Came Over Late‘. A tinge of blues emerges also in some of the slower songs, and is possibly openly alluded to in the title of ‘Some Kinda Blue,’ one of the tracks where it is felt the strongest. The Beatles surface here and there, and one could argue that they are a background presence throughout the record, and they’re directly quoted, lyrically and musically, in album opener ‘Bubblewrap‘ – quite possibly my personal favourite – which leads the listener into the record with a very bold statement: all else aside, Indian Queens remain first and foremost a rock band, and they’re not going to let anyone forget it. It is not by chance that the two songs that go harder on the rock mood are the first and the last in the tracklist – the latter, ‘Walk,’ featuring very throaty vocals and somewhat of a ’60s vibe.
“Who wants to start a revolution?” asks title track ‘God Is A Woman‘ (another very Beatles-y song, but with a very grunge bass line, fittingly; it almost sums up the entire record). This is not just a throwaway line as much as it is a statement of intent for the whole record. What kind of revolution Indian Queens are aiming to start, remains to be seen, but it’s easy to have some suspicions: to start with; one in which female vocalists are not pigeonholed in an imaginary ‘female-fronted music’ category that is bound to sound in a very specific way. The takeaway from this album, ultimately, is that Indian Queens sound like Indian Queens, and no one else – female-fronted or otherwise.
It is a debut that has the band’s fingerprints all over it, and in a way it feels like the end of something as much as the start of something new. It’s a starting point, but also the culmination of a chapter in the personal history of a band that now feels quite ready to go and explore more, new directions. They move forwards from a very strong position, and it will certainly be an interesting ride.
God Is A Woman is out April 3rd on Cool Thing Records. Pre-Order various formats and bundles here.