This ‘Joanna Gruesome’ review was written by Eleanor Wallace, a GIGsoup contributor.
Joanna Gruesome’s second album is 21 minutes of angst-fuelled whimsy, ranging from sickly-sweet to completely bizarre exclamations of young love. It starts promisingly with lead singer Alanna McArdle screaming through the opening lines of ‘Last Year’, in which she declares her murderous threats towards an ex-boyfriend. Opening the album with a punch, McArdle is not one to abstain from writing lyrics that leave you a little unsettled. The singer speaks up frequently in interviews about misogyny in the music industry, and how as a woman you are taught not to upset men. But she has a voice, and she’s not afraid to use it.
The lively punk riffs rarely change in tone or tempo, characteristic of hardcore punk and indie-pop, but this album shies from getting as chaotic as it should be. As a result, that rage seems to dribble away to desensitized lethargy with a droning, repetitive sound; it’s frustrating. The band famously met in an anger management class at University, channeling this agony into their music, which actually becomes more like confusion and uncertainty. It suits, I suppose, the themes of failed relationships, reminiscing over the boys that weren’t good for her, the boys that weren’t cool enough, the boys that lied, or the boys that did nothing. She softly declares “I’m sick, I’m weird” on ‘I Don’t Wanna Relax’, giving us an insight into her self-image and how others see her. She’s not going to settle for who you think she should be.
The band as a whole, with guitarist/vocalist Owen Williams, guitarist George Nicholls, bassist Max Warren and drummer Dave Sandford, has a lot of varying influences based on personal taste, from Cat Power to Violent Femmes to even Shostakovich. It creates the feeling that, although their youthful sound is endearing and their themes are both poignant and effective, they have not quite focused themselves. As a band just starting out, they are attempting to get a grip what it is to be in the music industry, and subsequently are doing a lot of growing in front of their audience. Both this album and their debut ‘Weird Sister’ certainly signify that the group is promising, but still sound like filler to the main event.
‘Peanut Butter’ is out now on Fortuna POP!
The full track-listing for ‘Peanut Butter’ is as follows…