Joanna Gruesome rule. The Welsh noise pop quintet’s debut album Weird Sister was a near ideal combination of the discordant and the melodic, tying together jangly C86 flecked melody with violent, yet euphoric, superfuzz. Their live show is a celebration, as the band members bounce around as catalysts in a glorious musical reaction. So, how does a group go about following up such an artistically and critically successful couple of years? The answer: become besties with Syracuse, New York post hardcore champions Perfect Pussy, refine your sound to the point where no moment is wasted, record said music, and name that album Peanut Butter.
Much of the music on Joanna Gruesome’s second LP, has been swirling around the interwebs for quite a while. Last year, ‘Jerome (Liar)’, running at an economical one minute and thirty nine seconds, was released on a split EP with Bristol’s Trust Fund, while the incendiary and enigmatic ‘Psykick Espionage’ stole the show on the group’s Astonishing Adventures! split with Perfect Pussy. Throw in the two proper singles released from the record, album opener ‘Last Year’ and the defiant ‘Honestly Do Yr Worst’, and that’s nearly half the album. The band are clearly eager to have their music heard, and it’s not a surprise considering it is this strong, exuberant, and infectious.
The rest of the record doesn’t let the quality drop. ‘Jamie (Luvver)’ is a joyous piece of DIY indie pop that is destined to be a fan favourite and bound to be a singalong highlight at the band’s hyperactive shows. ‘Crayon’ slows proceedings down a touch into a mid tempo discordant dream, all dissonant chords and feedback mixed with sweet melodies that is the sets most expansive track at just over three minutes. Just as Weird Sister ended with the softness of ‘Satan’, Peanut Butter ends on a subdued note. ‘Hey! I Wanna Be Your Best Friend’ is a delicate and touching tribute to friendship on which the group share a vulnerability that is always hinted at in their music but not readily explored usually.
Peanut Butter is Weird Sister but better. It’s more melodic, more dissonant, more concise, just a whole lot more despite being six minutes shorter. The success of the record is in this refinement and their ability to write the shit out of a pop song, earnestly wear their hearts on their sleeves, and the fact that they truly have their own voice. Towards the end of the album, vocalist Alanna McCardle and gutiarist/vocalist Owen Williams delicately duet on the line, “If you ever need a place to stay, that’s fine, that’s cool”. I know where I’m staying. Right here listening to Peanut Butter with this bottle of rum.