As a band alleged to have formed at anger management classes, Joanna Gruesome are a surprisingly jovial, albeit dark-humoured group when interviewed. The band’s guitarist/singer Owen Williams summed this up describing the album when, he said: “This is our second record. It is about 20 minutes long and aims to expose the radical possibilities of peanut butter.” This tongue-in-cheek adolescence also runs through the core of the music, which displays glimpses of emotional depth but quickly resorts to bursts of noise, redolent of a teenage temper tantrum.
Debut album Weird Sister was a mixed bag that threw up the occasional odd-ball pop-noise treat such as ‘Sugarcrush’. Comparisons have been made to other female-fronted bands, with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ name bandied about, but YYYs are a much more complex band and have been since their multifaceted debut. The New Yorkers have also evolved with each release, and in Nick Zinner they had a highly creative guitarist to bolster Karen O’s natural stagecraft and effervescence.
Be Your Own Pet – fronted by Jemina Pearl – who came on the back of the noughties rock revival, are a more suitable musical companion to Joanna Gruesome. They shared the same carefree youthful exuberance and a refreshingly messy approach to music, but I’d argue they had more guile and a better knack for writing a tune on their self-titled first outing. Their brash kinship is perhaps best illustrated on the first half of standout track ‘Psykick Espionage’ – songs split in two is something of a trait on this album.
Following Weird Sister’s critical acclaim, Peanut Butter is an album on which you’d like to see the Welsh outfit establish themselves by showing some poise and sanding some of the rough edges. ‘Last Year’ kicks off proceedings, and the overlapping vocals are effective in hastening an already frantic pace – halfway through it turns into a more conventional rock song with male/female vocals complementing each other. ‘Crayon’ displays a change of tact, but any delicacy is counteracted by abrupt cymbal bashing. Reckless abandon and morose attitude is at times tempered by delivered by Alanna McArdle’s softly sung vocals and nonchalant accompaniment from Williams, which works well on several songs, particularly ‘Separate Bedrooms’.
At the moment JG feel like a band lacking direction. As young musicians that is understandable, but it feels like Peanut Butter was rushed out by a record company to capitalise on the hype following Weird Sister. Clocking in at just over 20 minutes it is a rushed listen. You don’t sense they are a band with great longevity right now, much like the aforementioned BYOP, whose flame was quickly snuffed after a promising start. They jump from one idea to the next without ever accomplishing the first. However, there is more than enough craft and wit on Peanut Butter to indicate this is a band with potential, who are perhaps spreading themselves a bit thin at the moment; if given direction and time to refocus their energies they could whip up something special. Garrett Hargan