Peanut Butter and Joanna Gruesome, or, as I think of it, PB+J, is the second full-length release from the Cardiff Noise-Pop group Joanna Gruesome. A 22-minute pleasure, this album is a date with two personalities.
How do we start this date? Well, they’ll start screaming into your ear with an intense sharpness, aggressively holding you against a wall, then you start making out while you grab their legs, the softness of an Emo and Shoegaze band trances you like a siren’s call. “Last Year”, as well as a whole host of tracks on this minute record do their best to capture the essence of a simple chaos. Fast and angry, there are times where the drums are very much in the background, something that didn’t help convey more power into this track.
Your date then thinks about screaming at you some more, but they’re a lot more melodious about it, still using that sweet voice to “whooaaaoaaaa” you to bed. “Jamie (Luvver)” helps make the clean side of this more distorted date become realized, with each instrument having sonic room to pulsate against paper thin walls. Unfortunately, this track did not transition well with “Honestly Do Yr Worst”, the next track which makes you wonder whether you’ve been loving two different people or two personalities, both lovable on their own, yet possibly messy when mixed. You can love that Shoegaze style in the vocals, but you have no idea whether the atonal aggression will work for you.
“There Is No Function, Stacey” is a lot more controlled and has a bit more of an emotional edge vocally, with an ending that captures this strange feeling of being left alone at prom as it reaches the end, where the janitor hastily cleans up the waste. The band actually sounds as if they’re performing at this prom, with a guitar riff that’s simple and relatively clean, drums that grow faster or slower as personalities switch, and a mood that’s promising of sadness. The gap between this song and “Crayon”, the next track, works well for the record, delivering an emotionally tense guitar, almost slowing down the band’s progressions completely, not being aggressive, while not coming off too soft either. There’s a more melodic breakdown in the bridge, with these background notes that seem…bubbly. The drums kick up faster as the band reaches a level of ecstasy, with vocals and feedback that don’t go along together. Feedback-wise, there is this abuse of it in the intro to the next song “I Don’t Wanna Relax”, which doesn’t fit with the softness conveyed through the vocals; although the title is pretty appropriate. The guitar has a lot more of a presence, with small solos interspersed throughout.
“Jerome (Liar)” uses bass a lot more, with the date constantly wanting to rear its aggressive head. Not completely there, it is much ghastlier; in the Scooby Doo way. “Separate Bedrooms” doesn’t feel new, and at this point of the album you recognize that a 22-minute jam just doesn’t do it. The vocals are weaker, the guitar plainer, and the drums are dull. What kind of emphasis there is is broken down by boredom. Your date is just not going to cut it, and with the excessive noise that introduces the next track “Psykick Espionage”, the album feels like it needs to end quicker. “Hey I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend”, a vastly slower and softer track takes on a different personality, having this ambient feeling that almost is like being dragged on a sheet in a nursing home while your functions stop working. This Scottish feel permeates the guitar, rising into this beautiful flow of notes as you sigh a relief that your date impulsively jumped the window.
The band absolutely know their sound, but the melodic guitar portions and the punk chic mixed with a glistening vocal timbre didn’t mix as well as they could have. At first listen, it’s good for a heart-pumping run, with its anger delivered at appropriate intervals, yet at the same time, the charm is not for everybody.
Dustin Ragucos is a writer of things fictional, poetic, and musical. His main loves include Death Grips and Indie music. Dustin’s blog is host to a weekly blurb about albums old and new.