When writing a review for any artist I find the opener to be hugely challenging, within the first few lines you have to grab the reader’s attention while simultaneously championing a piece of work you know they’ve put their heart and soul into, it’s no easy feat. This has never been more relevant than with Joanna Gruesome and their debut album Weird Sister, the welsh five piece don’t lead you in with a gentle stroll, you’re thrown straight in at the deep end; a tactic that works phenomenally and doesn’t fizzle out towards the end of the relatively short thirty minute run time.
The tactic of a total musical onslaught from start to finish makes slightly more sense when you consider the circumstances of which the band was founded, allegedly the members met and bonded during anger management classes and came to the realization that music would be a good release. By putting all your aggression and fury into music you’re doing something a whole lot more constructive than shouting at people in the street and generally causing a bit of a scene.
The albums opening track, Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers shows the band’s intent right from the starting line, a ferocious guitar centric track paired with crashing drums and a dreary vocal piece with piques of hugely emotive outbursts. There’s an overtly speedy feel to the album overall, however sandwiched between these fast and aggressive tracks you’ll find slower and more withdrawn pieces which really help to define the direction the band wishes to go with their music; with these highs and lows so frequent it gives the album an almost schizophrenic feel, something which I found made a good album ultimately a whole lot more fascinating and unique when compared to other acts around at the moment. There are a few tracks which demonstrate the calmer points of the album, my personal favourite being Wussy Void, with an opening I can only describe as having a kind of shoegaze western style the song has a hugely emotional feel throughout and stands out as one of the most defining tracks.
The lyricism of the album shines through most brightly on ‘Secret Surprise’, the essence the song sounds like an obsessive relationship; the lyrics tell of a person wanting someone so much, bringing them out of their self and making them more outgoing while knowing how much the other person wants them. It’s the typical teenage angst situation, becoming so infatuated with another person you don’t really think about anything but them.
“You want me so much you can’t breathe”
The theme of teen angst and obsession continues throughout most of the album, there are references to comic books, UFO’s and paranoia throughout which really reflects the band member’s interests and hobbies outside of music. It’s a variable smorgasbord of influences and contributions from each member of the band making something with such a diverse and varied feel you’ll not guess what’s coming next. Another example of these influences coming in is in ‘Sugarcrush’ with what sounds like an abduction being described.
“It’s coming down on me; it’s coming back to be seen”
It’s difficult to pick out particular moments which shows the truly brilliant and theatrical genius the band has as each track seems to want to outdo the one preceding it, Lemonade Grrrl has a very energetic and upbeat sound which would work wonders at a live show while others such as “Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still In Love With Me?” show the bands impressive skill of increasing and decreasing their tempo at any given second.
With such a unique sound it’s pretty challenging to compare Joanna Gruesome to any other group around at the moment, at a push you could draw comparisons to the new York based ‘Sleigh Bells’ but with a more static and distorted tone making it somewhat grittier and more individual.
With a debut release as strong as this it’s clear that as a band they’re destined for huge success, what’s shown on this album is the kind of powerful and emotive musicality paired with such irreverent lyricism and creative themes that a band will strive to achieve throughout their entire career. It could be down to their youth and the angst that led them together but there’s a massive amount of talent being shown throughout. The major positive of this album has to lie solely on its individuality, with every band trying to emulate their predecessors you’ve got to admire a band willing to take it to a whole other place.