There's a moment in the bridge of "Last Year," the lead track off Joanna Gruesome's new album, where you can hear the band's Jekyll and Hyde transformation. Breaking from their initial blitzkrieg, singer Alanna McArdle abruptly shifts from spitfire screams into a melodious indie-pop croon. But as she and guitarist Owen Williams harmonize, the guitars can't help but fall into discord, the two sides of the band's personality rubbing up against one another — think Pussy Riot mauling the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
This element was present on the band's 2013 under the radar debut Weird Sister, but on Peanut Butter, everything is heightened; the hardcore elements more aggressive and pointed, the indie-pop moments prettier and more tuneful. It's a subtle shift of the old loud-quiet-loud formula, but Joanna Gruesome make it work, thanks to their charmingly rag-tag aesthetic and Williams' ability, as the group's primary songwriter, to weave hooks out of every riff and melody on the album.
Final track "Hey! I Wanna Be Yr Best Friend," a slow burning duet between McArdle and Williams with sparse instrumentation, is the only song that ditches the conceit, and it's a glimpse at where the band could go if they wanted to expand on their current sonic palette. But with ten ridiculously infectious songs clocking in at just 22 minutes, Joanna Gruesome are in no danger of wearing out their welcome. (Slumberland)