The Joy Formidable

The Big Roar

Written by: TL on 26/02/2011 22:31:13

Despite the fact that I wasn't exactly blown away by The Joy Formidable's 2009 release "A Balloon Called Moaning", my slight skepticism seems to have done nothing to slow down the band, considering the attention their new album "The Big Roar" is drawing in the British music-media. Hence, being second-guessed by the world at large, I decided it was best if I used this new album as a basis for forming myself a second opinion.

The band's main constituents are singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist/backing singer Rhydian Dafydd, who have recently been joined by drummer Matt Thomas. In terms of references, their music can be described as a The Kills/White Stripes-type band, sizing things up until sounding like The Arcade Fire at their noisiest. Buzzing verses give way for choruses backed by great big walls of guitar noise, while Bryan delivers vocals from the eye of the proverbial storm, that sound like a mix of Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and Fever Ray.

The album consists of twelve tracks, four of which have been carried over from the last record, namely "Austere", "Whirring", "Cradle" and "The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade". The latter two highlighted "A Balloon Called Moaning", and they appears among the better cuts on here as well, alongside new songs like "The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie" and "A Heavy Abacus".

Of that selection, "Whirring" and especially "Cradle" now strike the most positives notes with me, as they dare to add some diversity to TJF's soundscape, introducing an up-beat approach that recasts the band as more dynamic and energetic than they otherwise appear. This however, also underscores my main gripe with the band, who too often rely on a mid-tempo rendition of a formula that occasionally appears to me as simple as "make a little noise, then suddenly make a lot of noise, then keep making a lot of noise". While Bryan and Dafydd hammer their instruments with great vigour and effect, there's not too much versatility in their sound. Of course, having only the two pairs of hands to play with, there's an obvious limitation to what they can do, but I do sense that the expression has been intentionally kept just a bit too simplistic, considering also the very restricted usage of Dafydd's backing vocals.

That being said, there is at least a handful of songs on offer, that one can instantly recognize after but a few listens, and that fact alone makes "The Big Roar" a worthwhile effort. Then if you add to the equation, that the sound is both cool, confident and characteristic, you might be getting closer to an understanding of why this band has been gathering some hype. The only question is whether their ideas are rich enough to keep fans interested in the long run, and by not quite offering an unequivocal answer to that, "The Big Roar" does eventually strand just short of the promised land, in my imaginary geography of grades.

Download: Cradle, The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie, A Heavy Abacus, Whirring, The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade
For The Fans Of: Swan Lee, Arcade Fire, The Kills, The White Stripes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Listen: myspace.com/thejoyformidable

Release Date 21.02.2011
Canvasback

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