Joanna Gruesome

Joanna Gruesome


In Islington Mill’s small but perfectly formed space, Welsh noise-popper Joanna Gruesome can’t even all fit on the stage. All dressed in black turtlenecks (a couple of which will be discarded along the way…’stupid turtlenecks’) a bassist and a guitarist are forced to stand off stage, playing with their backs to the audience. It all adds to an endearingly ramshackle performance on the first night of this, their rescheduled tour (they were due out in April but singer Alanna McArdle left, replaced by Kate Stonestreet from punk band Pennycress) in support of their album Peanut Butter.

The show is full of energy and excitement, in no small part due to the shaven headed Kate who hollers and yelps her way through the set, a ball of furious motion who somehow reminds me of Ian Curtis (or at least videos I’ve seen of him…alas I’m too young to have witnessed him in the flesh). She doesn’t sing on all the songs, that’s left to Roxy and Owen who sweetly harmonise over the fuzzed out guitars that do their best to hide the glorious melodies underneath. For this is what Joanna Gruesome do (excellently), they take a wonderful pop song and blast it to bits either via a wall of noise (see the chaos that ‘Crayon’ descends into at the end, a wall of squealing guitars and distortion), or the yelps of Stonestreet. As I stand watching, head bouncing to the infectious songs, smile beaming across my face, it strikes me that they are some kind of super amalgamation of Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Belle & Sebastian, without sounding overtly like any of them. This, obviously, a brilliant thing. After one song, Roxy explains to us that ‘it’s such a good song because it’s the chords to Wonderwall’…this, obviously, is a brilliant thing.

It’s a lightning quick set, their two albums combined only run to about 50 mins between them, so songs come thick and fast. ‘Honestly Do Yr Worst’ is an early highlight, all power chords and those wonky harmonies interrupted by Stonestreet’s shout-singing; the thrash intro to ‘I Don’t Wanna Relax’ shakes off any cobwebs that might have been remaining from the work-week, and first album cut ‘Sugarcrush’ ends the night on a powerful high, Roxy singing ‘bah-bah-bah my head explodes’ before the band pummel the shit out of their instruments for the coda, a wall of noise that cuts to the core of my heart and head, like a more fun version of those poe-faced shoe gazers My Bloody Valentine. They leave the stage having only hung around for about 45 minutes, but like the venue, it’s short and perfectly formed. They are on tour throughout the UK for the next few weeks, if you get a chance to go along to one of their shows, grab it with both hands, you’ll be beaming for hours afterwards.

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