There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Queen Kwong over the past few months, and it’s due in part to leading lady Carré Callaway‘s discovery by none other than the legend that is Trent Reznor, when she was just 17. There’s also the fact that Limp Bizkit guitarist (and Carré’s fiance) Wes Borland forms one quarter of the band. Top trumps facts aside, the LA rockers are turning heads for their chaotic live performances, their primal, psychedelic punk rock and Carré’s wonderfully wacky persona.
For their debut album Get A Witness, Queen Kwong took an unorthodox approach to songwriting, choosing to write one song a day from scratch. It’s all completely improvised, and the recording of the entire record took place in just eight days. This by any standards sounds like a recipe for disaster, but for Queen Kwong, it oddly works.
First track ‘Cold Daggers’ is a gritty little garage rock number, with a sleazy, addictive bassline and catchy hook, whilst piano-led ‘Get A Witness’ hypnotises and transfixes the listener into a dream-like state. Swathes of psychedelic improvised guitars and Carré’s utterly mesmerising and haunting vocals envelope the soul like a fuzzy, warm hug. It’s remarkable that this song was written in just one day. ‘Red Devil’ is another highlight, having a bluesy, old-school feel to begin with and descending into a riotous wall of sound as the song unfolds.
Carré Hallaway’s vocals have been described as the missing link between that of Garbage‘s Shirley Manson and Courtney Love, and it’s not hard to see why. As she snarls and growls her away through the bonkers ‘Bells On’ (in which she sings about cats) and sings with the voice of a punk rock angel on organ ballad ‘Love Me’, Carré’s enigmatic charisma draws you in, leaving you wanting more.
In a world where so much music is synthesised, auto-tuned and manufactured, it’s refreshing to hear a band as raw and authentic as Queen Kwong. The improvised nature of this album encapsulates Carré’s spontaneity and true artistry perfectly, resulting in a creative product of total expression and complete musical freedom.
With so much going on all at once, a bit of patience is required when listening to this album, and it’s likely that some people just won’t ‘get it’. For those who persevere, there are some true gems to uncover here, and more to discover with each listen.