Friday, January 21st, 2011

The Joy Formidable – Austere

Somewhat-tipped Welsh power trio, but surprisingly we’re not holding that against them…


Jonathan Bogart: What, someone likes the Jesus & Mary Chain? Get outta town.

Iain Mew: They’re Welsh, they’re indie and it was a bit of a surprise that they weren’t on the Sound of 2011 list. So it’s with an expectation of scoring them well above their average that I say: I like this! The wordless sung hook is strong enough to seem like there’s more of it than there actually is. They achieve a really enjoyable balance throughout between prettiness and noise, with the latter eventually gaining the upper hand as it explodes out to its instrumental finale, but never quite taking over completely. I actually like their more song-based stuff even better (largely for sounding just like a more awesome version of The Hot Puppies) but this still has my anticipation for their album growing.

Jer Fairall: The squealing vocal hook is the kind of trick that many a lesser band would consider a song all by itself, but look here how it springboards to much greater things — a hypnotically rubbery bass line, a prickly fuzzed out guitar run that explodes into anxious noise, whatever meaning we can imply from lyrics as obliquely tragic-sounding as “I’d rescue you now / but in velvet you’ll drown” and “you’re just another unfinished story now” — all delivered in such relentless succession that it’d be tempting to call this generous if that word weren’t so comically unsuited to such a sheer monster of a track as this one. And that’s not even taking into account the final explosive minute of instrumental cacophony, itself the most thrilling stretch of music I’ve heard so far in this young year. Why exactly isn’t it these guys being earmarked for a 2011 breakout instead of that bore James Blake again?

Zach Lyon: I’ve heard one other song from the (terribly-named) Joy Formidable, the absolutely wonderful “Cradle”, which I love so much that this score might be a bit biased. Their strengths in “Cradle” aren’t quite as evident here: the guitar takes a while to get going and (the terribly-named) Ritzy Bryan’s voice is a lot more subdued. But it’s still a good counterargument to those who doubt that the guitar can still be an active, emotional communicator. Sleigh Bells might be loud, but they don’t give you the same endorphin release that only comes when a guitar tears your face off.

Martin Skidmore: The guitars start to buzz and then crash a little way into this indie-rock number, and for a moment you think it might turn into some Buzzcocksish pop-punk number, but sadly it ends up sounding more like a Primitives number that everyone has forgotten. I suspect my feeling that it is nearly good may be wishful thinking.

Katherine St Asaph: Two songs begin here, one with a pulse and one with bland indie grumbles. The latter wins while the former gets shoved into the background, that wail at the beginning stuck on repeat as if it’s trying to burst free and form something better.

Frank Kogan: Starts with seagulls hired to impersonate girl backup singers, the bass pretending a steady four-four but then faking us out with mathpop five-fours, the singer cradling herself as if in a dream, guitar and bass engaging in log-sluicing, and finally everyone doing an eight-to-the-bar headbang, ‘cept the seabirds, who consider headbanging OK for the likes of geese and pigeons, but not for lively gulls like themselves.

Chuck Eddy: Amorphously girl-sung, yelp-hooked, loud-ringing-guitar-blanketed indie pop-not-rock, seemingly attempting a Breeders/Jesus and Mary Chain hybrid, which probably isn’t a new idea, and definitely isn’t an interesting one, though the blur does hint at beauty after a while. Still, if the title’s supposed to suggest this song has something to do with a new Age of Austerity in North Wales, the singer’s indifferent avoidance of enunciation doesn’t exactly support the theory.

Josh Langhoff: It seems Lilliputian or Kleenexian, by which I mean charming in a stringing-stuff-together-as-it-occurs-to-us way. The high vocal hook over the bass is fun, and then they realize they want to add some extra beats every couple bars, which necessitates changing the hook, and then the guitarist decides to sound all Joy Division-y, and the drummer forebodes, and they figure if they’re sounding foreboding they better play something worth boding, so they start exploding. Dense swaths of noise ensue, with guitars playing rhythms out of phase. They wisely peter out after just the right amount of time.

2 Responses to “The Joy Formidable – Austere”

  1. This was OK! Six and a bit seems about right.

  2. Oh dear, my Vaccines experience and failure to successfully predict the consensus has led to me coming off like one of those people who start their missives to the BBC with ‘I bet you won’t publish this!’ :(