Review: The Anti-Queens’ Long Road to a Self-Titled Debut Was Worth Every Mile

The Anti-Queens’ self-titled album is a distillation of face-melting 1977 punk, with enough late-‘80s Bad Religion to ground it and a smattering of early 2000s Green Day to prevent it getting stale.

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Emily Bones is tired when she answers the phone on Sunday evening — and not just from a long day at work: “I drove home from London [Ontario, to Toronto, a two-hour trip] today. I slept in my car last night after our show because I was too tired to drive back. So in the morning I just drove straight to work.”

Listen: ‘The Anti-Queens’ – The Anti-Queens

This isn’t an untypical story for the long-time lead singer of The Anti-Queens, an all-women punk band set to explode out of Toronto’s underground punk scene. Armed with a new lineup, a killer debut LP out Friday, Sept. 13th, and a two-month European tour following the release (which will no doubt mean many more sleepless van nights ahead), it’s been one hell of a 12-month ride for the band.

About a year ago our goal was to do a full-length and it felt like an impossible goal because it was so much money and we weren’t sure where we were going to get it from. We were going to do a crowd-funding campaign online to raise money for it because that was the only way we could do it,” Bones tells Atwood. “And then, we were lucky enough to get signed to Stomp Records and I get my wish of a full-length album.”

The Anti-Queens – The Anti-Queens

Before any of this realised dream was possible, however, Bones had to use her decade-long tenure in the Toronto punk scene to recruit new members. “The new lineup just happened naturally: Val [Valerie Knox] our guitar player, she joined at the time when we were a three-piece and we went on tour with her other band Black Cat Attack and they were like ‘you guys need a second guitar player.’” After some unsuccessful auditions, Knox offered to join. “I was just fangirling that she’d joined my band because I was a huge fan of Black Cat Attack.

I just hope that it would inspire people to be more open with how they’re feeling and to express it in a more positive and constructive way.

That was the start of the overhaul. A decade of grinding away in the scene meant that life started happening to various royalty in The Anti-Queens.

After that our drummer left so we held more auditions and we found Dallas [Conte]. She’s just so amazing and we just fit really well — we’d known her for a few years in the scene. And then our bass player left so we had more auditions and Taylor [Cos] was someone we’d known in the scene for a few years also, so we all had that chemistry to begin with and it was a really natural fit.”

The comfort level shines through on the record, which careens along a thought highway that runs from the political to the commonplace. The energy of admiration reverbs as hard as the bassline as the four punk veterans revel in the chance to play together.

Listen: “Worse Than Death” – The Anti-Queens

Unlike their two previous EPs Grow Up/Stay Young and START RUNNING—which are both solid in their own right—the band’s debut full length contains a previously untapped energy: “This record is a lot more raw. We did a lot of the takes as full takes, going through the song and not stopping or cutting in and fixing things,” Bones offers.

As an act that built their name on fast-paced, raucous concerts, this approach captured the expanding sonic web the Anti-Queens spin together every night: “It sounds a lot more like you’re there watching us live—this is exactly what you would hear if you saw us perform on stage.”

The album is a distillation of face-melting 1977 punk, with enough late-‘80s Bad Religion to ground it and a smattering of early 2000s Green Day to prevent it getting stale. Bones & Co are able to pay homage to their life-long punk passion while hitting the gas pedal enough to ensure it doesn’t feel rehashed.

This variety was by design. “I don’t really think about how I want it to sound too much—I don’t have a particular genre in mind” Bones adds. “I usually just write what I’m feeling at the time and go from there. I like each song to have a little bit of a different feel—some more of a punk aspect, some more classic rock’n’roll, some alternative.”

The Anti-Queens © MICHAELxCrusty

This duality of styles also comes across in the lyrics. While STARTING RUNNING mostly contained socio-political songs, Bones wanted to branch out into her own experiences: “It’s like a diary that I’m just giving to the whole world to read.”

Album standout “Run” demonstrates this, starting slowly with Bones’ strummed guitar before launching into classic Anti-Queens mayhem as she explains all the reasons her new man should leave.

I’ve got the highest expectations and the lowest self-esteem
You’ll never be invited to my house that’s never cleaned
And I’ve got the worst temper that you hopefully never see
I can be nice, overly nice,
But overall I’m fucking mean.

Meanwhile, “Small Victories” combines crunchy-Nirvana guitars with a Courtney Love sneer. “It’s about going on dates and maybe sleeping with said person on a date,” Bones offers of the song’s lyrics. “That’s always given from the man’s perspective so we were like we should flip the table a little bit; women can be like that too.”

This blending of personal and political stop the album from getting too heavy and reminds you that The Anti-Queens are just four punks looking to blow off steam: “I like having a sense of humour in the music—I don’t want to take myself too seriously.”

You ain’t my type
I don’t believe I’m yours
So we should both admit what we came here for.
It’s a small victory,
If I can get you into bed with me,
And not be,
The one that you need.

A vicious, not-self-serious record, The Anti-Queens is everything you look for in a punk album. Coming in under a hot 30 minutes, it’s also bound to leave you desperate for more. But, beyond that, Bones has a hope for the record she drives home, saying: “I want to inspire people to be open and honest with things they’re going through or emotions they’re feeling despite how ugly the emotion might feel. Try to use that in a constructive way, write music, paint, draw, write a book, write a poem, anything really.” She continues: “I just hope that it would inspire people to be more open with how they’re feeling and to express it in a more positive and constructive way.”

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