Thursday, October 17, 2013

Album Review: Joanna Gruesome-Weird Sister

Joanna Gruesome do this amazing cover of Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat” live. It unfortunately didn't make it onto their debut album Weird Sister, but it still needs to be heard by all. Over almost five blistering minutes, the band manages to take one of the loveliest and fluffiest dream-pop songs ever made and turn it into a series of noise-pop explosions, turning the song's inherent sweetness on its head, into a sonic dagger that communicates this hidden desperation & anguish that lay hidden inside the song next to its heavy longing. And yet, Joanna Gruesome is still able to hold onto the song’s heavenly core, despite the newly added ruckus that now surrounds it.

That, in a nutshell is exactly what Weird Sister is like; ten hyper sonic bursts of pure, genre worthy noise-pop perfect songs that manage to truly balance both aspects of that tag. It’s all there from the get go with “Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers”; the blitzkrieg of out of tune guitar riff before the song bursts into fuzzy chords and Alanna McArdle’s coo like vocals for the verse, and then explodes again during the chorus, McArdle now shouting her lyrics and the guitars harsher and more violent. Yet, always there is some sort of earworm melody being played by one of the band members, or some catchy as hell passage just waiting around the corner. “Sugarcrush” opens by blatantly ripping of My Bloody Valentine’s “You Made Me Realize”, then pulls a 180 and proceeds to be one of the most straightforward blissfully and infectiously catchy songs on the album, complete with boy-girl trade off vocals. (My Bloody Valentine is actually a strong, secret influence throughout the album, and it’s really interesting to hear them used as something other than a shoegaze influence, especially in the likes of “Do You Really Want to Know Why Yr Still in Love with Me” and “Madison”).

Nowhere is this give and take more clear than on album centerpiece “Secret Surprise”; what might be the best indie-rock song I’ve heard all year, it opens on a perfectly degree of tension, McArdle’s vocals being spat out against pounding drums and feedback squeaks that let you know the band is itching to start making some noise. But when the track does, it is utter, UTTER perfection. The guitars are at their catchiest and noisiest, the riff this sort of warped jangle progression to burrows deep into the album, the track increasingly becoming more and more manic, and the violent imagery of the song piling up. It would be hard for a band to try to top that, so the band begins to cool down, performing their only ‘long’ song “Candy”, which will soundtrack nerdy indie dork slow dances for years to come. The band gets one more burst with “Graveyard” (which feels like a Bikini Kill song on PCP and covered in glitter), before ending on “Satan” which rightly ends up being Weird Sister’s most effortlessly dreamy track.

A solid chunk of Weird Sisters is actually appropriated singles & songs that Joanna Gruesome that the band had recorded previously. Weird Sister though never, at any moment, feels fragmented or pieced together. In fact, I doubt fewer debuts have felt this confident or energetic since Los Campesinos!’s Hold on Now, Youngster… and I don’t make that comparison lightly. These tracks are brimming with a sort unrepentive youthfulness, an angry, snotty, and bratty as hell youthfulness, but a sense of life that is missing on so many albums now. Weird Sister is compacted and compressed indie-pop chaos. It is the result of throwing ten different indie rock gods into a blender and pouring the result into wax form. Weird Sister is just pretty damn perfect.


Joanna Gruesome's Facebook
Buy Weird Sister here, from Slumberland Records

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