THE JOY FORMIDABLE – The Big Roar (Atlantic)

It has been a long time coming, but finally we have the debut full length album from The Joy Formidable. ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ has been tiding us over since 2009, and the band seem to have been permanently on the road since its release, but they have now managed to find time to visit the studio and lay down these twelve tracks for our delectation. Perhaps it was their heavy workload preventing then from writing new material, or possibly they just loved the songs so much, but the first thing I noticed was that four racks from the ‘…Balloon…’ EP turn up on here as well. Nevertheless, I popped it in the player, and one listen to ‘The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie’ proves that the wait has been worthwhile. From the clattering sound effects of the beginning to the hysterical laughter at the end it is brilliant indie rock, with Ritzy’s vocal cutting through the dense guitars like a knife. ‘The Magnifying Glass’ is even better, taken at a breakneck pace for some good old fashioned indie punk rock. ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’ is another storming rocker, and once the band hit their stride they really go for it, making way more noise than any three piece has the right to do. ‘Austere’ follows, and their first single from 2008 has been beefed up beyond recognition. Ritzy’s vocals are no longer the girly-pop of the original, but deeper and more aggressive, and the mid-section bursts from the speakers in a totally unexpectedly wall of noise. ‘A Heavy Abacus’ slows down the pace a little, but not the volume, which is followed by ‘Whirring’, which was one of the highlights of the ‘…Balloon…’ EP, and is the centrepiece of this album. It starts off quite ordinarily, goes through the verse chorus thing, and then just when you think it is all over the band suddenly take off for a five minute guitar extravaganza, building and building until they can go no further. I can now see why the have re-recorded these older songs – to show just how far they can go with them, and in the case of ‘Whirring’ it takes it to a completely different level. ‘Buoy’ is another new song, and sounds a little subdued after the last track, but soon makes its presence felt, while ‘(Maruyama)’ is a short interlude before the re-worked ‘Cradle’ storms in. Once again, much more powerful that the older version, and showing just how much the band have come in the last couple of years. ‘Llaw=Wall’ is the only track sung by Dafydd, but it is more the lack in your face guitars that makes it stand out as a haven of peace in a noisy world – that is until the rest of the band show up and thunder on through until the end. ‘Chapter 2’ starts as it means to go on with a high energy riff, and it never lets up until it grinds to a halt. This album closes with the song that opened ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’, all those years ago, ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’. For this one they have pretty much stuck to the original arrangement, and to be honest there was not a lot they could have done to improve on it. So, was it worth the wait? I would say that it most certainly was, and despite my initial trepidations at the lack of new material it turns out that the band knew exactly what they were doing by revisiting and reinventing the old stuff to produce this superb debut album. Very, very highly recommended.

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