Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

20 January 2011, 11:00 Written by Antonio Rowe

After an artist has triumphed over the trial and tribulations that one expects to encounter during the creative process, they then face the slightly less exhausting but equally as stressful task of giving said work a name. It may appear to some as nothing more than a mere feat in the grand scheme of things, but trying to summarise your work in a way that appears both clever and pertinent can be frustratingly daunting.

That being said, it’s a hurdle that The Joy Formidable appear to briskly vault over with ease, The Big Roar - the world’s longest and most dangerous wave, brews in the Amazon river basin. A true freak of nature, albeit an organised one, with this Shiva-like destruction only happening once a year. With that in mind, the moniker The Big Roar couldn’t be anymore of an apt name for The Joy Formidable to give to their debut LP. Their music has being deemed with the tag “wall of sound”, as a result of their unfaltering talent for combining all of their seperate instruments, to create a behemoth musical wave, if you will – one that’s brazenly messy, resolutely disorganised, unmistakenly rock n roll but withholds an iron-fist melodic grip.

So, unsurprisingly, it’s a long player that for the most part doesn’t hold any prisoners, with the cascade of guitars that arises as the abstract overture fades out at the beginning of ‘The Everchanging Spectrum Of Life’ quickly eliminating any preconceptions that The Joy Formidable may bear the traits of clemency or modesty. Latter tracks like ‘Whirring’ and ‘Cradle’ are just as cac0phonously euphoric, the sounds of a trio building up a creation to ecstatic heights, to then only demolish it in a gloriously captivating fashion.

The Joy Formidable’s live incarnation has always been renowned as a raucous sight to behold, however for some menial reason or another, it’s never come across as strong on record. Now mainly thanks to a healthier recording budget, their big sounds and Ritzy Byran’s showmanship are given room to breathe, no longer being held back or stifled as a result of slightly tawdry recording equipment. On ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’ her voice has a elasticity of meaning - she’s enthrallingly forthright, yet irrevocably vulnerable, and ’Abacus’ sees her give another ill-tempered performance, but this time there’s punchy vengeful lyrics to match:

”Now your world is here”/”Watch it disappear”/”All we have are these strange cold memories”

Myopic listeners could view the idea of having quieter moments on the LP as incongruent, weak spots amidst an otherwise raging musical beast. But the strangely titled ‘Maruyama’ is anything but a sore thumb, it just adds another dimension to The Joy Formidable’s sound; Ritzy’s beguiling voice being the familiar object amongst the atypical creeping guitar and hushed murmurings.

Whilst all of the aforementioned praise is justified, let’s not get too overzealous, like many debuts there are missteps. The chaos present in ‘Magnifying Glass’ isn’t as endearing as it’s contemporaries, the first half of ‘Llaw=Wall’ doesn’t quite achieve the broodiness it’s aiming for and the extended jamming sessions at the end of the LP’s longer songs could come across a tad self-indulgent to the wrong set of ears. However, all of these are just examples of personal preferences, and won’t tarnish an overall view of the record. Also there’s the small fact that a third of the LP is material that was used for their EP/mini-album A Ballon Called Moaning – to counter this they’ve being given a polish and an extra injection of gusto.

At a time where music could be accused of being at it’s most lacklustre (ridiculous I know), The Big Roar is a suffocatingly breath-taking gust of fresh air. A record that does what it wants and doesn’t make any apologies for doing so, it’s a histrionic, anthemic, accomplished rock debut.


Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next