Best friends Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton have crafted a freaky and surreal debut album
“Is this really good, or is it sh*t?” asked Jenny Hollingworth in Let’s Eat Grandma’s first NME interview last month. The singer and multi-instrumentalist was wondering how people might react to the divisive, untameable sound she’s crafted with best friend Rosa Walton since forming the band at 13 and writing a song about a novelty alarm clock called ‘The Angry Chicken’. Her hypothesis seems sensible: debut album ‘I, Gemini’ does whiff of Marmite.
On the cover, there’s a treehouse in trippy shades of purple, and song names include ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’ and ‘Chimpanzees In Canopies’. Jenny and Rosa are now aged 17 and 16 respectively, but far-out inspirations clearly remain. While their pop sensibilities are clear, the music is surreal and dense, with guitar, synthesiser, saxophone, glockenspiel, recorder and vocals that lurch from sugary to shouty.
But exploration of ‘I, Gemini’ reveals its quirks are knitted together with extreme smoothness. ‘Deep Six Textbook’ – a foggy, synthy anti-school ballad with a glockenspiel solo – is a deceptively restrained opener. ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’ quickly banishes straightforwardness, though. More glockenspiel, nervy synth and distorted guitar combine for two minutes, before drums and rave whistles turn it into a clubby thrill. There’s even a rap breakdown.
Things only get freakier. Whispered commands of “Tell me something interesting!” and honking saxophone contrast cleverly with girl-group sweetness on ‘Sax In The City’. Nursery-rhyme nightmare ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’ provides the loudest moment, following a three-minute build-up of recorder, wailing effects and drums with a brilliant cacophony that sounds like a cupboard full of pots and pans being violently emptied. Bonus points for the call and response of “No, I’m gonna make a poppy cake,” “Uuurrrgh!”, too.
Also plagued by screeching volume are ‘Rapunzel’ and the crawling, Ariel Pink-ish ‘Sleep Song’. Respite comes via the dreamier ‘Welcome To The Treehouse Part I’, but Let’s Eat Grandma excite most when they’re being awkward. They know it, too: closer ‘Uke Six Textbook’ is deliberately sickly sweet, designed to mock their twee image. Really good or just sh*t? They needn’t have asked in the first place.