Release Date: Mar 15, 2011
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
From the moment you enter into The Big Roar, there is a sense of purpose and deliberation that is so lacking in most debut records. The Joy Formidable have done a wonderful and brave thing: this record is built on an air of the terrible and the terrified – it is threatening and exhilarating and loud as necessary, with homologous moments of quiet tension that provoke and stir the sense of trepidation with excellent skill. It starts with the cover art, which depicts a vast sea monster bearing down upon the band as they crouch hidden by their doorway.
The band live and die for each track The eagerly anticipated album from London based indie-rock three-piece The Joy Formidable far exceeds all expectation. Showcasing intensely forceful build ups, powerful hooks and an utter franticness that echoes early day Arcade Fire, there’s no quiet-storm half-heartedness here as the band live and die for each track. Opener ‘The Everchanging Spectrum Of A Lie’ builds in energy and emotion while combining a nursery rhyme sing song quality in the form of Ritzy’s vocals while tracks like ‘Buoy’ do the darker rough edged guitar thing.
Welsh rock trio The Joy Formidable gives us a roar that makes things of the ’90s seem modern again. Echoing that big rock sound from over a decade ago, the album cranks out some anthemic tracks buzzing with energy, depth and damn good noise. Somehow, above the throbbing layers of guitar riffs and pounding drums, the incredible voice of Ritzy Bryan gives this three-piece the perfect balance with her brazen yet refined voice.
At first glance, Welsh trio the Joy Formidable appears to be yet another example of several things that we currently have far too many of. Another UK guitar act making rounds in the NME buzz bin. Another band languishing in the indie rock blogosphere long before producing an actual album to prove them worthy of the hype. Another incarnation of both of the above that takes a large swath of their inspiration from the eternally fashionable likes of My Bloody Valentine and the Jesus and Mary Chain.
Taking a cue from the early '90s, when bands like Lush and Slowdive bathed the English countryside in lush, guitar-driven noise, the Joy Formidable crank their amps to the breaking point on this shoegazing debut. The Big Roar is a massive, melodic growl of an album, combining four retooled songs from the band's 2009 EP with eight newer tunes. It’s not a time capsule, though; songs like "Whirring" update the band’s shoegaze influences with the anthemic four-on-the-floor insistence of Arcade Fire, and Ritzy Bryan’s vocals are pushed to the front of the mix, eschewing the Thatcher-era tradition of burying one’s voice beneath layers of distorted guitar squall.
The title of The Big Roar functions as a concise summation of what’s to be found on the Joy Formidable’s first album, which is as bound to thunderous climaxes and strident choruses as it is to vacant, heavy distortion. The songs here are played out on big canvases, with little subtlety required, and despite tinges of haughtiness, the band makes the most of their size. Consider opener “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie,” which lives up to its swollen title via an eight-minute running time and a go-for-broke peak, where the song slowly approaches critical mass, explodes, then tops off with a fizzy ending.
A man much wiser than me once said "All we have to decide, is what to do with the time that is given to us.” And in an age where musical trends can change in the blink of an eye and fan loyalties can be swayed by the lightest of breezes, it seems little other than worrying that Welsh trio The Joy Formidable have waited over three years before putting out their debut proper. It’s not like we’ve gone all this time without any spoils though - in early 2009 we were treated to the band’s mini album, A Balloon Called Moaning. Recorded in the shared bedroom of singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan and her bassist boyfriend Rhydian Dafydd, it surged with the searing energy that makes the band such a tenacious live prospect.
The Joy Formidable's long-gestating debut full-length opens with roughly 45 seconds of some unspecified, arrhythmic clatter-- it could be hail stones pelting a cold tin roof, or a door opening and closing, or fireworks, or just the over-amplified sound of typewriter keys hitting paper. On their own terms, these noises might feel jarring and bothersome, but compared to what transpires over the next 49 minutes, they seem like an oddly naturalistic, curiously imprecise element on album that sounds otherwise scientifically engineered to make the Joy Formidable sound like the Biggest Band in the World, rendering traditional metrics like No. 1 chart rankings and platinum records as mere formalities.
The way the Internet hype cycle interlocks with the British music mag hype cycle is something that is probably being studied by some media nerd at the University of Chicago right now, but we know this: Joy Formidable were one of the British press’ favorite causes in 2008-2009, and the Internet’s favorite Brits in early 2010, but they have since been replaced with seriously grave stuff like Mumford & Sons. And that dumping of Joy Formidable makes sense, in some respects: It’s been three years since the Wale three-piece first started getting noticed, and it’s just now that they’re issuing their debut album. Three years is a long time to ask the U.K.
THE JOY FORMIDABLE hit the Horseshoe on Saturday (April 2). See listing. Rating: NNN It's nice to see that the chillwave memo currently circulating in North America has yet to reach England's shores. In Britain, apparently it's still okay to come across as a band that actually cares about the subjects of its songs; it's okay to try to make a statement.
The album title's no lie. The debut album from the Joy Formidable sounds as if it was recorded as some kind of sonic weapon. And singer/guitarist Ritzy Bryan seems to feel one of her is nowhere near enough: her guitar tracks are heaped on each other, until the whole edifice is teetering under its own weight, and her voice is layered and treated into a smooth, shiny facade.
A powerful signal of intent and a fantastic debut. Mike Haydock 2011 Welsh trio The Joy Formidable have been shaping this debut album for years. Current single Austere came out in its original form way back in 2008, and three other songs on The Big Roar have been released in the intervening years. If you want a model for careful, gradual career building, look no further than this lot.
In the time since Welsh trio [a]The Joy Formidable[/a] first strapped on a couple of guitars and decided that the amps should probably be knocked up to 11, we’ve managed to suck in and spit out new rave, shit-gaze, dream-pop, witch-house and all manner of other questionably monikered peaks and troughs. Yet somehow it’s only now that the band have finally emerged to stake their own claim with afull-length album. Led by rock’s new heroine [b]Ritzy Bryan[/b], and swathed in swirling guitarscapes and momentous walls of sound, [b]‘The Big Roar’[/b] is the kind of epic-yet-intimate debut that does exactly what its title makes out in the most tactful of styles; an LP that ultimately delivers on every count on the four years of promise leading up to it – primarily in its gutsy, chest-swelling brilliance and partly because, well, you’ll probably be sufficiently acquainted with a fair few of the tracks already.