Their puntastic name tells all really. Joanna Gruesome: the punky, rowdy, ‘do-I-give-a-shit?’ kind of bunch, fuelled by a heavy bout of teenage angst. Eager to shed their adolescent tempers, you’d be a fool to get on the wrong side of this Welsh five-piece.
It’s no surprise then, to hear that the band apparently formed at an anger management course, it’s members finding music as an outlet for releasing their pent-up rage. Think heavy guitars, lo-fi, and raw 90s scuzzy-pop.
The album, Weird Sister, is their first studio-produced record, deciding to swap their makeshift home-recording equipment for something a little more professional. More fool you, though, if you think this detracts in any way from their raw, underground sound. Indeed, the lo-fi, muffled noise is still very much intact.
Perhaps to the pubescent teen, plagued by troubles of spotty outbreaks, interfering parents and the absolute necessity to get laid, this stuff works. Rampant guitars, gravelly bass and wacky lyrics are, after all, a great way to release rage. If you exist outside of this framework, however, it’s difficult to pass Joanna Gruesome’s sound as anything more than raucous drivel. Man, I feel old.
Angsty punk-pop exudes from the word go, with “Anti Parent Cowboy Killers” sounding brilliantly reminiscent of those legendary American teen movie soundtracks from the 90s. Other bizarrely named tracks follow, with the likes of “Lemonade Grrl” and “Wussy Void” competing for the most outrageous song title award.
Lyrically, Joanna Gruesome are a colourful bunch. Brushing on themes such as aliens, comic books, graveyards and homophobia, female vocalist Alana McArdle and her male counterpart are never short on content for their innovative lyrics.
As far as the music goes, pounding guitar licks and drowning solos have brilliant moshing potential, particularly the self-indulgent conclusions to “Sugarcrush” and “Do Young Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still In Love With Me” (another contender for the song title award). And it’s these solos that win the band a seal of approval; there is no doubt that Joanna Gruesome would be a mesmerizing live act: sweaty bodies galore.
Yet, a few songs into the album, it all becomes tiresome. Songs drone into one another, and the lack of variety is where Weird Sister really falls. It requires some experimentation with new formats, some testing of different sounds. ‘Satan’, the album’s closer, is perhaps the most uncharacteristic, its slower tempo and stripped back style producing a far more mature sound; one which perhaps will shape the future, post-adolescent sound of Joanna Gruesome. Here’s hoping.
MP3: Joanna Gruesome “Do Young Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still In Love With Me”