Joanna Gruesome - Peanut Butter (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Joanna Gruesome

Peanut Butter (2015)

Fortuna Pop / Turnstile

Two years ago, Joanna Gruesome hit gold combining the most sugary of pop hooks with the noisiest of punk music. It was called Weird Sister. It was great. This year, they’ve returned with its follow up, Peanut Butter. It’s more of the same, though much less fun.

Joanna Gruesome is always best when they're musically clashing against themselves. That sound first appears on opener "Last Year" and bleeds throughout the album. Sadly, now they've settled on more mid-tempo art songs. By comparison, their mid-tempo numbers are much speedier than most, but it’s a damper nonetheless.

The center of this album contains the meat. “Crayon” and “I Don’t Wanna Relax” show Joanna Gruesome's perfect blend of Alanna McArdle’s vocals and the guitars fighting back against it. They also happen to be the most reminiscent of Weird Sister. “Crayon” has a lot of things going for it: the guitars hold the melody, the vocals remain cheery and the drums get choppy. When everything starts to sound wrong together, we’ve achieved maximum Gruesome. That moment is the opening to “I Don’t Wanna Relax” until the noise drops and makes way for McArdle.

The album lives and dies by the peppiness of her vocals. Too much so, considering it’s often hard to make out what she's saying. The overtly pop tone leaves the listener craving for something to latch onto. And with song titles like “Separate Bedrooms” and “Honestly Do Your Worst,” it’d be nice to understand the meaning. After 20 minutes, closer “Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Friend” switches the pace, unfortunately to slow things down more. While he gets a solid amount of singing time on Peanut Butter, Owen Williams presence is most felt here, where he even helps clarify the lyrics.

Peanut Butter is not a bad album by any means. But an artist expanding on one distinct idea often stretches it too thin. “Psykick Espionage” is the closest they come to their earlier vibe, one that is a whole lot like Perfect Pussy. However, even though Meredith Graves is harder to understand, she always keeps the energy up. Maybe that’s what Joanna Gruesome needs again, the spirit that made their debut so darn likable.