Review: Joanna Gruesome – Peanut Butter

Joanna Gruesome may have a ridiculous name (a moniker that serves as a horror movie parody of harpist Joanna Newsom does not exactly scream “lasting appeal”), but the band has delivered one of the most thrilling albums of the summer with their latest album, Peanut Butter.  It is a rollicking affair that effortlessly mixes effervescent pop and dissonant punk, all with a super-charged energy that will keep your head constantly bopping along over the course of its brisk twenty-one minute runtime.  Peanut Butter may not be the most important album you will listen to this summer, but its infectious nature might make it the one you listen to the most.

Much like they did on their debut, Weird Sister, Joanna Gruesome is able to seamlessly shift between the beautiful and the grotesque without coming across like a schizophrenic mess, alternating between melodies that are sugar sweet with moments of biting and grating dissonance.  The disparate styles actually work brilliantly in tandem, with the pop sensibilities and discordant punk attacks each enhancing the effect of the other, an intriguing marriage that brings to mind previous examples of this approach like British Sea Power’s The Decline of British Sea Power.  The brief moments of dissonance may be startling to the average listener at first and seem like digressions from the general flow of the songs, but over time these terse explosions reveal themselves to be not only a welcome change of pace but also brilliantly deployed punctuation of certain ideas.

Though few individual moments or songs leave any sort of lasting impression, it can be argued that the disposable nature of the music is a feature and not a bug.  There is no need for the listener to remember any particular melody or lyric when everything comes so fast and furious; what is more important is the general effect on the audience, which is “let’s play this record again and again.”

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