The two snippets of new material from Joanna Gruesome that bridged the gap from 2013’s ‘Weird Sister’ to now - ‘Jerome (Liar)’ and ‘Psykick Espionage’, tracks born on respective split releases with Trust Fund and Perfect Pussy - were examples of the band carrying out their marriage of harsh and sugar-sweet sounds with increasing conviction.
The latter’s verse is the sharpest, hardcore-tinged section they’ve ever written, and its chorus the cutest, and the track slots seamlessly into ‘Peanut Butter’. It’s an album that takes Joanna Gruesome to every possible corner of their capabilities, when ‘Weird Sister’ sometimes failed to stray from the straight-forward. ‘Jamie (Luvver)’ is the boppy indie-pop partner to ‘Jerome (Liar)’’s crunch, and ‘I Don’t Wanna Relax’ is a fittingly erratic cut.
The album’s ten tracks come and go in an impossibly short 22 minutes, and is a lesson in including only the necessary and the absolute best the band have to offer. ‘Weird Sister’ sometimes let its songs drag on into indistinguishable end sections, while ‘Peanut Butter’ cuts it all out and moves briskly along to the next sub-two-minute belter. A cover of ‘Separate Bedrooms’, a track by Bristol songwriter Bert Clark, also manages to squeeze into the record, giving the five-piece’s impeccably tight rhythm section its moment.
Joanna Gruesome’s lyrics are, as ever, elusive, but the lines that do slip through and become legible - “crying in the pizza restaurant” / “crushing your tiny skull” - suggest a continuation of Owen Williams’ violent, abstract storytelling. Album closer ‘Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend’ is the best they have ever done a slow-ie, having tried previously on ‘Candy’ and ‘Satan’, and introduces organ parts and a twin guitar solo that could only end an album.
Joanna Gruesome have adapted, honed and stretched their sound on ‘Peanut Butter’, and though nothing here sticks in the brain quite like ‘Sugarcrush’ or ‘Secret Surprise’, their tip as one of Britain’s brightest new hopes is more than backed up on this showing.