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Joanna Gruesome, ‘Weird Sister’ – Album Review

Slumberland Records

Twenty years ago, who’d have thought the sounds of modern rock would feel retro? But in recent years, indie rock has increasingly thrown out bands aping the loud pop dynamics of another era. The latest is Joanna Gruesome. On their debut, ‘Weird Sister,’ the five-piece from Cardiff, Wales, reveal an astute command of the sugary alt-rock dynamics — the kind that fueled similar rock-grrl-led groups (Juliana Hatfield, Belly, Veruca Salt) in the ’90s.

They also have the sort of telepathic interplay that comes from being road-tested on extensive club tours. In all, it’s an enjoyable alt-rock blast, complete with great melodies and passionate playing.

Now if they’d just add something distinctively their own to the mix. Between the cutsey-tough name, teen-lingo-referencing album title, band-flyer-style album cover and song titles such as ‘Sugarcrush,’ ‘Wussy Void’ and ‘Lemonade Grrrl,’ they feel less like a new band referencing the past than a new band living in the past. There’s nothing wrong with drawing on your influences, and Joanna Gruesome never sounds like a pale imitation. But they also never sound like more than a band that’s really done its homework.

Their press bio tells the story (most likely apocryphal) of how the band members met in anger-management counseling, where the patients were urged to work out their issues through learning a musical instrument. “Initially they found each other infuriating but gradually acknowledged their musical chemistry and decided to continue with the band outside of therapy,” the PR sheet reads.

It’s a great little bit of creative back-story, and you can hear that chemistry in their playing. Once they bring something fresh to their sound instead of the shopworn angst of another generation, they’ll make a noise worth falling in love with.

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