The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law
In the two years since The Big Roar, The Joy Formidable have made themselves some powerful friends. Won over by the trio’s captivating blend of shoegaze atmospherics and old-fashioned indie rock, profile-enhancing support slots with Foo Fighters and Muse have only enhanced their steady trajectory upwards, a journey that’s unlikely to stall on the basis of Wolf’s Law.
Compared to the compact delights of story-so-far compilation A Balloon Called Moaning, their debut proper was hindered by attempts to replicate the live TJF experience; a wearing reliance on volume and extended freak-out-ery made it an album that necessitated considerable reserves of stamina for a repeat play. Nevertheless, those songs have served them well, especially Stateside where near-constant touring has ingratiated them with audiences wearied of identikit emo bands and rawk-free nu-indie outfits.
This self-produced follow-up (mixed by Andy ‘Nevermind’ Wallace) sees some of those previous excesses reigned in but Wolf’s Law still lacks the concise, indie-disco floorfiller that might make them household names. Several tracks do make a good case for being added to the live arsenal, however: ‘Cholla’, with its loping, metallic riff should find favour with those who saw the band play with Muse, while the proggy elements of ‘Bats’ will spill effortlessly from this summer’s festival stages. The spiralling melodics of ‘Forest Serenade’ might be the best of the bunch, Ritzy Bryan finally allowing a sliver of near-hysteria to break through from behind that steely, blue-eyed gaze. By contrast, the faux-Native American stomp of ‘Maw Maw Song’ may quickly pale.
For a band whose live power is central to what they do, taking the foot off the pedal does them no harm. The gentle acoustics of ‘Silent Treatment’ are a welcome respite from the more relentless numbers, while the orchestrated finale of 'The Turnaround' gives more credence to the lingering notion that TJF will blossom the more they turn inwards for inspiration ("The best part is over and nothing I'm feeling is new") rather than the bigger, often nature-inspired, themes dealt with here.
The Joy Formidable continue to fascinate for their resolve, their certainty in their art, and understanding that good work requires effort, patience and the long haul (Dalliance be damned!). This certainty is there in the track titles: This Ladder is Ours, The Leopard and The Lung, The Hurdle, The Turnaround - these are definitive articles, not the airy nothingness of many of their contemporaries.
The ladder is theirs - they should climb it.