By Al Kaufman
With The Big Roar, The Joy Formidable created the album that people in England have been waiting for years to hear. Ever since the Welsh trio offered up the 2009 eight-song EP A Balloon Called Moaning fans have been clamoring to see what the guitar-heavy shoe gazers would do with a big full-length.
On this side of the Pond, the demand for new material has not been quite so boisterous. In fact, it’s safe to say most people would just say, “The Joy Who?” The Joy Formidable is on a mission to show those folks what they’ve been missing. Since the release of The Big Roar in January, they have been touring endlessly throughout the United States (this is their second trip to Atlanta, and they come back again November 7 to open for the Foo Fighters at the Gwinnett Center), played Conan and others, and are supporting an album that demonstrates all of their wondrous talents. Complete with four songs from their EP, plus eight new cuts, Joy Formidable introduce their whirring guitar sound in all its fuzzy, wall of sound glory. “The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie” begins like a tight little pop song and gradually swells into a grand epic by the song’s end. “Whirring” and “The Greatest Light Is the Greatest Shade” (both from the Balloon EP), use that same slow burn approach until they reach wildfire proportions. The effect is mesmerizing. Other cuts, such as “Austere” and “Cradle,” demonstrate a sort of Breeders-esque bouncy anger. Lead singer Ritzy Bryan also shows on “A Heavy Abacus” that she is in Bjork’s league when it comes to caterwauling.
The band can also slow things down, as on the somewhat relaxed bob of “Buoy.” Rhydian Davies takes over the vocal chores on the “Llaw=Wall,” a sort of Bright Eyes or Bon Iver sensitive-guy ballad. It strips away the layered guitars so that Davies stands alone, until the guitars return at the end in another climactic rush of an ending. The Joy Formidable go through so many tempo changes and crescendos that it is sometimes hard to tell when one song ends and the next begins. Somber resignation can easily give way to anger, then move on to hope (sometimes all in the same song), each mood complimented by it’s own tempo. It keeps people guessing. It’s the kind of stuff that makes fans of Kim (be it Gordon or Deal) wanting more.
Live, the band reaches even higher levels. Their sound becomes bigger and bolder. Their energy is contagious, to the point where it reaches almost Beatles (or early Oasis) proportions in regards to fan frenzy in England. Here, they know they still have to prove themselves. They are willing to work and sweat for your love.
Welcome to America, Joy Formidable. Though we haven’t exactly been waiting for you, we’re glad you’re here.
The Joy Formidable play Music Midtown at Piedmont Park on September 24, at 7 p.m.