I have tried to like the Joy Formidable. I suspect my misgivings with them are generational, though, so if you happen to be under the age of 30, feel free to dismiss everything I say next as hopelessly outdated.
I have listened to everything the Joy Formidable has released. So far, I like “A Balloon Called Moaning” and this one. I would call them a “Single’s Band” if that meant anything, anymore. What does mean something is that they write songs, not albums. I am fully convinced that the proper way, the way the band intends for you to hear their songs, is to catch a song on a playlist- which is the modern equivalent of a 7 inch ( a single) being played on the radio. It’s just that their songs aren’t “Pop”- they are pompous Prog/Psyche/ post punk- like Baroness or Mastodon crammed into a song with late 1980’s Cure, and Siouxsie singing. That’s not a bad sound, except Ume has nearly the same sound, and does it tighter, and with more emotional impact- and sustains interest over an Lp’s length, not just a 7 minute song. So, while I have room in my heart to enjoy more than one band doing roughly the same thing, I also have the luxury of being rather selective with their output. At least, I don’t treat them like I do Muse, who occupy a similar space- a hollow simulacra of an actual Progressive art. I think Ritzy actually has heart and soul into this, unlike Mr Bellamy who is all ego.
So, the sound is fantastic. The guitars Clang, Thrum, Wail, Soar and Ring. The drums sound ENORMOUS, and the bass throbs, pulses and stomps. All as it should be. But, if ever a band needed a producer, it’s this one. Sequencing is an art completely lost on them. To spoil the ending, rather than buying the album, I would suggest going to Itunes or Amazon, or where you get your Mp3’s, and simply cherry picking some of these songs ( my picks would be “A Second in White” “Radio of Lips” “The Last Thing on My Mind” and “It’s Started”- but I could see how you might pick a track or two different) as otherwise, the dynamics will be so far off that I promise you’ll never listen to the whole record, having lost interest somewhere in the middle.
The playing is excellent, but somewhat sloppy- I hear missed notes, late beats, and so on all over it. ( and again, Ume is far superior for exactly this reason- they play directly, spot on, like they are laser guided). If they were playing pop music, virtually every song on here would be far too long, but, again, this is far too proggy for pop- stylistically, it’s like a more pyche pop version of the arty post-metal that is carrying the rest of the genre, these days.
All that verbage aside, I think it’s them at their best- there’s real feeling behind the lyrics and sounds- it’s not just, as so often in the past, a big roar. It seems to me that they are finally concentrating on being a band, and making music, not just making a show of it. I really do not care about whatever is going on backstage, unless that is translated into the art, and the performance, and in this case, sometimes, it does.