The Gaelic translation of Queen Kong’s hometown means ‘the big swamp,’ and I like to think they started out as ‘the thing from the swamp’ — meaty, muscular, and more than a little mad at being woken up. Queen Kong were spawned a long time ago around the turn of the Millennium in the faraway city of Cork, Ireland. Although the band’s later incarnation was at least two-thirds female, in the beginning they had more of the Y- chromosome, (which in some circles would suggest they were less evolved). Back then, they were also hairier and a bit more ‘metal’. They coalesced over time in a volatile solution of Mike Patton, G.G. Allin, and Bowie. With their travelling circus up and running, they acquired a gimp, leather chaps, holey tights worn as tops, and songs that combined pop choruses with rap interludes about making out on piles of body parts.
As the years passed in anything-but-silence, they crawled up the island of Ireland running on the kind of fuel Captain Planet’s arch enemies used to dump in dolphin sanctuaries. They moved to the country’s capital, Dublin, and began making and performing catchy, cool pop songs like “Enough for the Whole World (to fall in love)” and “The Rules.” The gimp was fired and Amy Stephenson grew into a diva (though a very polite one it has to be said), turning up to shows with band mates Dave Murphy and Ruby Moore in either dresses made of plastic bags that looked like couture or nothing much but a few strategically positioned stickers, maybe a bra for good measure.
“Enough for the Whole World” and “The Rules” represent the band’s last stage of evolution after the digital surface of their music had been cleaned until it sparkled, as if by a housewife vacuuming to something suitably deranged. By around 2005 it was clear that Queen Kong had finally hatched the ruthless, polished fem-bot the Irish scene would come to know and fear.
Lyrically, QK were often weird, as in “Approximation”: “The military lets you wear your own cosmetics/ I wish that I had a face like Samuel Beckett.” In “The Rules” and “Enough for the Whole World,” the weirdness took the form of a comic feather duster kind of tease: “I look to you, cos you’re a company man” (“The Rules”) and “When you’re in love…everything laughs/ like an actress remembering her lines” (“Enough for the World”).
Exemplary and scary, like a beautiful hall monitor, “The Rules” was streamlined and gorgeous. The lyrics seemed to mock the idea of feminine submission while fondly, patronizingly, petting and stroking it.
The bizarre aspects of the band’s lyrics and performance were often entwined with humour, a sense of the comic as well as the majestic extravagance of emotional pop. In “Enough for the Whole World,” Amy Stephenson acts the luvvie pro on stage for kicks. This enjoyment and sense of mischief was typical of the band’s live performances, though harder to pick out in “The Rules,” which sounds more remote — Queen Kong were always fierier on stage, while on record they gave shovelfuls of snowy vocals and icy bleeps — but it’s there in everything they did. In a time of chimpanzees (namely mediocre Irish New Wave bands with caterpillar sideburns), Queen Kong was a monkey; a weird, hairless monkey, technologically advanced but still passionate. A human monkey in fact. It’s a damn shame they released so little that’s still available (besides “The Rules”/ “Here is Home with You’re Only Massive”), but the best way to obtain sightings of the beast is probably through checking out their MySpace page, as well as the surviving YouTube videos of their live performances (hence, the brilliant “Enough for the Whole World,” below). Queen Kong were a little known Irish band that left behind few collectibles for the world to keep, and though they may have emerged from a small scene, their name fit them well. They grew into a chest-beating giantess with tremendous energy, mourned especially by those who had the pleasure of seeing them live.