So this summer will see the debut album by Joanna Gruesome released, an event something like the release of several tonnes of Haribo into the hands of an army of tartrazine-starved children. The once Cardiff based band’s music is gonna be rightfully devoured – their songs are a way-addictive mix of flailing guitar scree and honey sweet/hard as nails boy-girl vocals, the female half of which is provided by the band’s newest member, Londoner Alanna McArdle. Her music as Ides could tritely be thought of as the sugar crash to JG’s sucrose high, but sparse and short as the ‘Songs About Love/Hate’ EP is, it carries a resonant charge that transcends its mostly electric guitar and vocals set up, and slugs you in the gut every time you press play.
And a lot of it’s quiet, so you listen in, uneasy to be feeding on the blankly confessional material. Some of the EP’s lyrics could look a little flat written down, but every line fits perfectly the stark and intimate nature of the music (produced with a nice line in subtle touches that play in whatever the aural equivalent of peripheral vision is). ‘Better’ opens with some barely touched piano over ghosted guitar, gradually adding double-tracked vocals that make a great space between quiet distortion and lilting sweetness. The song hovers beautifully, withdrawing, stinging in the sort-of chorus, then disappearing sharply at the end. There’s a similar trick in ‘Jacob’, of austere opening lines following their own momentum, quiet, hollowed-out sadness building in volume to some sort of fragile strength at the refrain.
It’s ‘Trains’ that shows the EP at its starkest and scariest though. The clanged guitar sinks into the same viscous murk of inertia that sufferers of depression can get stuck in, while the lyrics are atomised into single syllables of mutual hatred, time passing, carrying on. Scares the fuck out of me to be honest; pretty undeniably great too. ‘Crybaby’ is a much more opaque number, closing the EP with the quietest vocals yet, hints of violence in the lyrics underscored by sudden bursts of guitar noise. The moment at the end where the guitar volume is suddenly turned up for a brief, sustained burst is a pure, unexpected rush. It fits well on an EP that plays exclusively on the hairs on the back of your neck, spooked-out thrills all the better for being cloudy and briefly there. If you can catch a copy, ‘Songs About Love/Hate’ will become a very welcome house guest.