Joanna Gruesome

Peanut Butter

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

It's relatively easy for a band to make its second album if nobody's watching; it's a lot harder when your first album made a huge splash and there's a bunch of pressure to repeat with something just as good, if not better. That's the reason so many brilliant debuts are followed by duds. A lot of people were watching Joanna Gruesome when it came time for their second record. Their debut album had been a big hit on the indie rock circuit and beyond as the band won the Welsh Music Prize in 2014 for it. People really responded to the passion and songs and the way the album harked back to riot grrrl, post-punk, C-86, and noise pop, while having an original point of view. Other bands might have wilted under the pressure or attempted some kind of musical departure, but Joanna Gruesome decided to take their sound and boil it down to the bare essentials, keeping only the bits that worked and making them work harder in less time. Collaborating again with producer MJ of Hookworms, the band decided to make the pop parts poppier and the noise parts noisier, amplifying the hooks and screams into something even more focused and powerful. A quick listen to the album (and there's no other way to listen since the ten songs only last for a total of 21 minutes) and it's clear that their work paid off. The album sounds impressively big, the guitars and drums are boomingly loud, the mix is clear and brutal when it needs to be, and the vocals sound even more assured than on Weird Sister, which is saying a lot. Alanna McArdle's impassioned shouting is less strident this time and her singing is sweeter and richer, while main songwriter Owen Williams sings more and the duo sound really good together. Singling out tracks for praise is a bit futile since, just as much as Weird Sister did, this feels like a collection of singles. Pick any of them and the manic pop thrills and noise blasts will get the blood pressure of even the most jaded indie kid racing. Only the album-ending "Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend," with its whispered vocals and sticky-sweet guitar melodies, allows for a change of pace and then the album is over, ready to be started again. Based on Weird Sister, Joanna Gruesome didn't seem like the kind of band to bow to pressure or to fall down on the job. The intense and quite wonderful Peanut Butter is bracing proof of that fact.

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