Raymond Carver once said the key to good writing was to “get in. Get out. Don’t linger. Go on.” It’s a worthy adage for musicians too, and one that Joanna Gruesome have taken on with aplomb for their new record Peanut Butter. Without wasting a note, the five piece from Wales have crafted a blisteringly beautiful record; one that immediately and vividly establishes itself and then gets out before the listener has even had a chance to properly appreciate the power of what they’ve just heard.
Songs like the brilliant Jerome (Liar) may be mean and lean, but they’re not simplistic, and they don’t come across as half-baked or unfinished: these aren’t first drafts of songs that could do with some fleshing out. Joanna Gruesome create whole worlds in the space of less than two minutes, as their sound cartwheels between thrashing, punk influenced grit and melodic, noise pop perfection.
Lead singer Alannah Gruesome uses her voice like a weapon, and the diverse styles she deploys call to mind the ever evolving vocals of Mike Patton or Kim Gordon. On tracks like gently insistent album closer Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend, she sings as though she is delivering a lullaby, and yet on the powerful Crayon (at just over three minutes it’s the album’s longest track) an undercurrent of chaos simmers beneath her vocals.
There Is No Function Stacey is one of the album’s many highlights – moments of violence and grit sit side by side with demented pop bridges, making the track’s harsh moments harsher and its beauty all the more beautiful. Jamie (Luvver) is another delight; it’s a love song glimpsed through the darkest of glasses, and it comes to feel like nothing less than a humanistic anthem, charged with the energy and vision of a band that stand head and shoulders above most of their contemporaries.
With brevity, wit, and a ferocious creative appetite Joanna Gruesome have turned in a triumph. It’s an album with enough force and love to spread a smile across the sourest of faces, but it never teeters into limp sentimentality. It’s at once a fuck you and a love you; a punky, demented delight.