Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Joy Formidable Makes A Big Roar

The JOy FormidableThere is something undeniably earthy about the pop-rock delivered up by Welsh-raised, London-based The Joy Formidable. No matter that their time on stage was cut down from what the band was due, many people at SXSW discovered the deep-seeded charismatic energy of Ritzy Bryan (vocals, guitar), Rhydian Dafydd (bass, backing vocals), and Matt Thomas (drums, percussion).

Although without the feedback rained down during live performances, The Big Roar is an album that makes them a heavy-rotation standard for anyone who enjoys vibrant pop vocals set on fire with immensely heavy guitar textures.

It's almost unbelievable that Bryan and Dafydd grew up in the rural Welsh countryside. Until you find out that someone's parents liked to play music loud. The it all comes together after that. Once they drop their soft smiles, they play with feral veracity.

The Big Roar was written in retreat, much like the original tracks.

After spending less than six months together, they duo stomped out enough material for their first album. Their first single was released in 2008, which was followed up by an eight-track EP filled with what they love — dirty, loud, rhythmic guitars and thick bass lines.

"Some of them start [with acoustics]. Some start just as lyrics, some as drumbeats, guitar riffs. We swap up the way that we write all the time," Bryan said in an interview with Clash Music. "Some of it comes from Rhydian first, some of it comes from me first and some of it comes literally from just pissing about in rehearsal."

The reason Whirring seems so big is it breaks up the monistic expectations of a pop song, allowing it to break into a full-fledged heavy hemorrhaging of gutsy indie-infused rock. It builds, breaks down, builds again, and climaxes. We picked the live version to capture the electricity of the band, but the animated video is big fun to watch too.

Everything about The Big Roar works too. Their escapes to a small London apartment in between a heavy tour session paid dividends. Starting with the epic near 8-minute The Everychanging Spectrum Of A Lie through the broody, low-tone belts of The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade, there's not a track to skip.

A few early breakthroughs are redone.

While anyone who loved A Balloon Called Moaning, it's obvious some of the tracks are the same and different at the same time. Basically, they reworked how some of them play after picking up four years of experience on the road and whole lot more raw energy. My favorite off the album is easily I Don't Want To See You Like This with its downplayed chorus and powerful lyrics.

A few people didn't care for the shoegaze-grunge hybrid as the Guardian called it, but writing from the small confines of a cubicle is a bit different than standing in the sweaty enclave of a concert hall anytime Bryan starts beating on her guitar. Ahem, Guardian reviewer. Get out more.

I won't go so far in the other direction as to overindulge in review lines that claim everybody else is mediocre. We seem to find some gems in the heap (some weeks tougher than others). But even among those that sparkle, few are as strikingly steady enough to be a triumph like The Big Roar.

The Joy Formidable Cracks With A Roaring 9.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

The Joy Formidable is a brisk and dangerous exercise in sweeping anyone who listens under wave after wave of heavily played riffs that seldom slow down. Trust me on this. Anybody who sees them live will develop an addiction. Your best chance to catch them stateside is right now. They are touring from coast to coast through April 29 before returning to London and then hitting their hometown with an additional concert in Germany.

The Big Roar can be downloaded from iTunes or from the link to Amazon. Barnes & Noble also carries The Big Roar. File it under someone to watch in 2011. They leave a mark.
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