The name Joanna Gruesome first started to grab people’s attention in 2013 following the release of their debut album and, although still young and finding themselves as a band, the angst they had both in their music and persona’s demanded attention and that’s what they got. With influences ranging from punk rock to new wave, the Welsh five piece’s latest album Peanut Butter has received mixed reviews since it’s release last week, especially when compared to the success of the debut Weird Sister. However we think the band haven’t strayed too far away from this model and have instead adapted to create a more laid back album that also draws in the outbursts of fury and riot we’ve heard before.
Opening with the same torment we know to be signature of the band, Last Year hears the bitterly enraged vocals of lead singer Alanna ‘Gruesome’ viciously cursing about ‘crushing your tiny skull’ over a frenzy of erratically beating drums and a savage ringing of electric guitars. This all then seems to screech away before leading into Jamie (Luvver) and the rest of the album which doesn’t seem to dissimilar throughout with tracks like Crayon and There Is No Function Stacey being a complexity of almost undecipherable vocals which adds a sense of lightness to the music but does seem to reduce the impact of what the band stands for. Their messages that slam the ideas of gender inequality, sexism and their defiance of tradition although present are slightly weaker than when they were a young band with a lack of inhibitions. It’s also the fact that we don’t hear the monumental hooks of Weird Sister that can be said to attribute to a lack of memorability though what’s lost in this is definitely made up through passion and dissonance of Separate Bedrooms and Honestly Do Yr Worst.
Peanut Butter only lasts a relatively short 22 minutes and, although it took me several listens to form an opinion, the album makes use of all of these filling every corner with either anguished vocals, menacing guitars or the explosive drums of I Don’t Wanna Relax – an anthem of pure rage which stays true to it’s title. The decision to close with Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend is a controversial one much like other aspects of the album, however personally the slower pace and calmer orchestration gives it a more pensive feeling perfect for reflecting upon an album. Albeit, substituting this for a track with greater impact might have aided towards a more poignant conclusion.
Whether you think Peanut Butter is a great advance for the band or are left feeling slightly disappointed, it’s indisputable that Joanna Gruesome have produced something different to before which surely what any band would want to achieve. After all no one wants to hear the same thing again so venturing slightly away from their debut sounds is probably a good decision, even if The Guardian do think it to be ‘more gruelling than gruesome’.
Words by William Castile