Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

This was my initial review: “Crash pop done to perfection; get it now, read about it on my best-of-year list.” Then I got wordy….

Weird Sister has all the attributes of a winning Slumberland release – the precarious balance of noise and melody; titles like “Sugarcrush,” “Lemonade Grrl” and “Candy” that announce its twee roots; manically strummed guitars courtesy of dual attack team Owen and George providing a spiritual link to C-86 Godfather David Gedge of the Wedding Present. What those signifiers don’t convey, however, are the double-time hardcore drumming that propels several of the eleven tracks on this Welsh quintet’s debut, or the force of its roaring guitars that hearken back to the early My Bloody Valentine EPs, or to vintage Jesus & Mary Chain.

Vocalist Alanna (first names only, please – apparently Joanna Gruesome has something to hide) possesses a clear, deceptively sweet voice in the style of Veronica Falls’ Roxanne Clifford (or the Shop Assistants, anyone?) I’m not buying for a second the band’s claim that they met in anger management counseling sessions. Nonetheless, Alanna’s rant “You want me so much you can’t breathe/ I dream of pulling out your teeth!” on the breathless “Secret Surprise” cuts deeper than the venting of most of their ilk – and that’s hardly Weird Sister’s most violent content. Fortunately her lyrics are fairly difficult to discern, allowing the squeamish to focus on the boy/girl chant-along harmonies if they so choose.

Joanna Gruesome occasionally slow the tempo – most successfully on the timeless-sounding “Candy” – but it’s their death defying fits of frenzy that carry the day. Like I said, you’ll be reading about this Weird Sister again at year’s end.

Joanna Gruesome
Weird Sister