Music

Joanna Gruesome: Peanut Butter

Joanna Gruesome mash together lo-fi punk and fuzzy twee pop for a gleefully unbalanced follow-up to their acclaimed 2013 debut.


Joanna Gruesome

Peanut Butter

Label: Slumberland
US Release Date: 2015-05-19
UK Release Date: 2015-05-11
Amazon
iTunes

Joanna Gruesome is the type of band that could only exist today. There’s nothing particularly modern about their fuzzy twee pop lightly tipped with grimy ‘90s punk, but the way in which they integrate such oppositional genres together speaks to the current generation’s obsession with stylistic deconstruction and reappropriation. Peanut Butter, Joanna Gruesome’s second album, incites aural culture shock between lo-fi punk and shoegaze-lite pop, less a genuine blend of these styles and more of a stark clash between them. The album approximates what it might sound like for a Pains of Being Pure of Heart demo tape to be unceremoniously edited together with a Perfect Pussy record in an unrelenting tug-of-war, and if it seems like that would have an inhibitingly narrow appeal, that’s because it does.

Still, try not to be charmed by “I Don’t Wanna Relax”, which hilariously kicks off with a brutal thrash intro before matter-of-factly cutting to a summery vocal melody, or even the mild-mannered “Crayon”, featuring a bright chord progression frequently interrupted by bursts of dissonant guitar. Buzzing melodies engage in a back-and-forth with shouted vocals and propulsive instrumentation in songs like “Psykick Espionage”, “There is No Function Stacy” and “Last Year”, neatly condensing Peanut Butter’s prevailing gimmick into succinct album highlights.

But if Joanna Gruesome miscalculate anything in engaging in such a fluctuant style, it’s in tipping Peanut Butter’s scales more toward the guitar pop spectrum when their punk tendencies come off more sincere and unusual. To the detriment of their singular identity, the album’s focus is mostly on twee conventions, the spurts of noise acting more as interjections rather than defined sections themselves. It makes an already imbalanced record volatile in its instability.

Of course, that’s all part of the fun. The most provocative quality of Peanut Butter is the conflicting nature of its two influences, and yet, if punk and dream pop share any one quality, it’s that they both suffer from crippling sameness within their stylistic bounds. Joanna Gruesome’s off-kilter genre splattering counters this with an oblique take on those conventions, lending their punk sounds an element of sentimentality and their guitar pop an undercurrent of churning, gloomy friction, each style elevated beyond mere pastiche by virtue of the other’s presence. It’s an amusing but shallow gimmick, to be sure, but it’s also one unique to the band, and like all outlandish genre amalgams, it has its niche.

The basis of the sounds on Peanut Butter may be quintessentially retro, but the record lands the most blows from its execution. It’s an approach that’s uniquely postmodern, a car crash between two vintage underground rock styles in an era when everyone listens to everything and, as a result, the individual movements of our music culture are less defined and more all-encompassing. This century of music will be noted for that kind of stylistic cross-pollination where the culture feeds off of itself, where all contemporary art is a comment on everything else that came before it — a wave of "navelgaze". Joanna Gruesome, like so many young artists in the new millennium, are founded directly from that mentality, and Peanut Butter is one of the thousands of daring, whimsical, uneven results already here and still yet to be created from it.

7
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.

Music

Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."

Music

David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.

Music

On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.

Music

Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Music

Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.

Music

Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."

Books

How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.

Film

From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.