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The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar

Atlantic Records
January 24th 2011

Francesca Baker

I feel that this will be like reviewing a child. Not just a child, but my child. How can you pass judgement on one whom you’ve watched grow, cherished their early sounds, and sung the praises of over the last couple of years, and are now being grabbed at by the big beasts, the likes of NME, Radio 1 and mainstream media. Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt would laugh at such molly-coddling: their epic grandeur and ferocity on and off record show that they have always been able to take care of themselves, and their debut ‘The Big Roar’ confirms this.
Characteristic clicks and rumbles open the album, erupting into ‘The Everchanging Spectrums of A Lie’, one of the album’s highlights. Ritzy’s yearning and wistful ‘love, love’ over the bridge is huskily anaesthetizing, over intense bass lines in this nigh on 8 minute long piece of head spinning psychedelic.
A reworked and revamped ‘Austere’ is meticulously executed, although long time lovers of the band may feel that it lacks some of the raw grazing that so authentically attack throughout the demos and live shows. Cradle, another live favourite, comes in late in the album, its chiming chords and chanting rhythm soaring boisterously. The sound of lustrous steel lulls us into ‘Whirring’, the song that defines the sonic mayhem and head spinning freneticism of The Joy Formidable, Matt’s whirlwind fingers dazzling behind Ritzy’s soaring snarl.
‘Buoy’ has a slower start, but don’t be deceived into thinking this will be a sweet ballad. Whirling bass sounds like being stuck in a ghoulish helter-skelter, combined with birds wailing in the background to a sense of filmic malevolence.
Rhydian comes to the fore on ‘The Big Roar’ more so than on the demos and EPs, taking the lead vocals on the atmospheric and intimate ‘Llaw=Wall’, but it is Ritzy who continues to take centre stage, a core of the fire.
The thunderous and chiming beauty of ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ closes this glorious album, the sonic turbulence buzzing away to reveal an expansive vista. Somehow simultaneously reflective and acutely boisterousness, the layered tangents that flow and fold throughout The Big Roar show the band’s expansive talent. If you’re new to The Joy Formidable, you’re so lucky. Be prepared to be swept away. Wow.

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