Joanna Gruesome - Peanut Butter - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Joanna Gruesome - Peanut Butter

by Rob Taylor Rating:8.5 Release Date:2015-05-12

I don’t know whether members of Joanna Gruesome really met at an anger management course, as the legend goes, but if so, they channel whatever malevolence they harbor into concise noise-rock nuggets trimmed of pointless social antipathy. No preachy self-referentialism here, just a clipboard of fiery contemporary rants which extinguish after 30 minutes, leaving little to smoulder, helped by the fact that the largely incomprehensible lyrics are buried beneath a peat-bog of guitar fuzz.

Musically, Peanut Butter is a confluence of dissonance and melodicism. Peanut Butter is also the viscous, oily, messy by-product of a nut hard to crack. The album sure feels like either the exit steps of a successful therapeutic endeavour, or the results of an attic full of musical influences. Or both.

Singer Alanna’s versatile, occasional yammering indie-punk voice bears many general comparisons and yet no-one specific, the ephemeral riot grrrl yowl tracked all the way back to The Slits and The Runaways. As with all indie-rock, the feminist-led riot grrrl movement benefited from the subsequent quiet/loud revolution of the late 1980s/1990s; pioneers such as The Breeders and Sleater-Kinney.

Female singers who adopt the high register as part of their vocal tool-kit have occasionally been blotted with the 'twee’ tag, in most instances a condescending moniker, and like all such derisive terms, it serves to undervalue the music and distract from its wider purpose or intent. Alanna from Joanna Gruesome rarely utilises her higher register but does it to add colour and convey a range of emotion. Nothing twee about that.

Peanut Butter’s musical confection isn’t all that different from Weird Sister, but the hooks are sharper, and the music knocks louder at your door. JG wants your attention. The abrupt guitar intros to ‘Jamie’, and then ‘Honesty Do Your Worst’ are remarkably similar, the former a more fluid lead in, the latter an exciting prelude to an exquisitely paced indie strummer catchier than the common cold.

I can almost see Alanna bouncing around on stage, barely able to muster a "thank you" between tracks. Apparently, she used to suffer stage fright, but with this latest cache of tracks, the 30 minute workout will be a feat of body over mind. Literally a PB, when she pulls it off.

Some might disagree, but there appeared more room between musical phrases on Weird Sister. For instance the screeching guitar on that album’s ‘Graveyard’ was more like a primate’s call to its young, rather than uncomfortable feedback, the stepped-back tempo of ‘Secret Surprise’ more C86 in its deceleration. Peanut Butter is more urgent, one song never more than spitting distance from the next.  

Peanut Butter is an album brimming with dark luminosity and visceral excitement.

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