This article originally appeared on God Is In The TV
Fairy tales are not all Disney princesses and happily ever afters. In the first edition of the Brothers Grimm’s tales, Snow White’s biological mother is the Evil Queen plotting infanticide and Cinderella’s sisters slice parts of their own feet away to fit into her glass slipper. It’s this warped world, filled as much with violence as it is with magic, that’s inspired 17 year old best friends and multi-instrumentalists Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa Walton, better known as Let’s Eat Grandma. Visually presenting themselves as two modern Rapunzels, their debut album I, Gemini attempts to sum up the pair’s imaginary, seemingly twisted, fairy tale world.
On opener ‘Deep Six Textbook,’ it’s easy to be carried away by their grand vision. Built upon menacing synths, drones and the haunting, childlike harmonies that the pair conjure, they evoke Joanna Newsom. By the closer ‘Uke 6 Textbook’ though, the pair strip the single down to just its vocals and a ukulele. This infantilisation represents what’s so frustrating about I, Gemini. The desire for the pair to create a convincing childlike realm means that, much like the mind of an easily distracted toddler, it’s a rather musically unfocused record that borders on being anti-genre.
There are occasions where this really works. Sometimes the childlike musical touches, such as the glockenspiel at the beginning of ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms,’ lends a haunting atmosphere to the album. The heavy use of shamisen on ‘Chimpanzees in Canopies’ does transport you to another place and the baroque piano opening ‘Rapunzel’ has a gothic quality. Meanwhile, the substantial use of jungle beats and percussion on both parts of ‘Welcome to the Treehouse’ creates a thoroughly captivating climax to the record. At other times, the pair roam too far into infantilism. The stabbing saxophone on ‘Sax in the City’ and recorder on ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’ are somewhat difficult to listen to, but it’s the combination of blaring organ and too many overlapping vocal tracks on ‘Sleep Song’ that’s hardest to stomach.
Ultimately, it’s Hollingworth and Walton that prove the most difficult to connect with. Although their still-childish voices are charming on the likes of ‘Deep Six Textbook,’ their vocals and lyrics are often grating. On ‘Rapunzel,’ Walton yells “my cat is dead/ My father hit me” in such a petulant manner that it makes it hard to feel sympathy for the character. ‘Chocolate Sludge Cake’ sees them listing off different cakes they intend to make, before yelling “urgh” at the thought of coffee flavour. It’s as annoying as listening to a fussy seven year old. It’s not that they can’t sing either. On ‘Welcome to the Treehouse Part II’ their toned down, ethereal voices soar, just making their exaggerated exclamations elsewhere all the more frustrating.
At their best, the Grimms’ works tackled specific societal issues of the day within dark, violent tales. More importantly, they had a focus. Hollingworth and Walton rattle through so many musical genres and childish topics that their overall vision is obscured. They promised to let us into their imaginary world, but by the end of I, Gemini you feel more like the poor kid excluded from the treehouse.