At the midpoint of Mary Bell’s self-titled debut LP, we hear a high-pitched scream from frontwoman Alice Carlier. She informs the listener that she’s done dealing with the constraints men put on her: “I can be pretty/I can be carefree/I can be anything I want to be/I don’t care what you think about me.” As Carlier breathes the final words of the song “Trash Tongue,” everything pulls back so that we can hear each instrument in relief: the grueling basslines from Tristan Bardré, the fabulously sludgy rock guitar work of Victoria Arfi, and Gaïlla Montanier’s anchored drumming. In the song’s last gasp, feedback enters and the track cuts out abruptly.
Mary Bell is a feminist punk band that’s part of a Parisian scene currently being pulled in radically different directions. On one hand, you have the old guard—metalheads and crust punks clinging to tradition; on the other, you have hardcore teens from the banlieue who play their music because they need their voices to be heard. And then you have Mary Bell, named for the convicted “child killer” of the 1960s, an 11-year-old British girl who killed two young boys “solely for the pleasure and excitement of killing.” A sense of “misandrist” rage is at the core of their music, as well as a chaotic sensibility—play with fire, destroy all men.
“I Hate You” is fast and loud, Carlier articulating the urge to kill, over and over again, her timbre not unlike a French Allison Wolfe. “Sink Sigh Drown” and “Jonas’ Swirl” are two of the most guitar-focused tracks on the album, halfway between the ’90s grunge template established by the likes of Babes in Toyland and L7 and the cool energy of contemporaries like NOTS or Death Valley Girls. Mary Bell is like a Charles Burns graphic novel: it’s pulpy, energetic, and it will make you fear for your life.