While it’s an undoubtedly enjoyable affair, there is still a nagging lack of depth to the 12 tracks The Joy Formidable offer up on their belated debut album. For a record so long in the making it’s something of a let down that probably the most interesting question arising from the tunes is whether we should really invest that much time in them.
There’s nothing overly ambitious on offer, though should that lack of something more intriguing stop you from giving this a chance? Bizarrely not, as this is also one of the most enjoyable records released so far this year. To cast it as some guilty pleasure for the masses would be wrong though. Yes, there are stadium rock pretensions but The Big Roar’s attempts at the epic have a huge amount of charm about them.
Enormous, celebratory tunes without the cold, generally dull, precision of Muse; there’s even a healthy air of the shambolic at times.
The would-be-blockbusters are chopped up with a mixture of great garage-rock and the odd subtle touch in amongst the surge of guitars. The album’s centrepiece – ‘Whirring’ – is typical of the kind of ‘set-up-joke, set-up-joke’ standardised format of at least half of the tracks. Big guitar line with plenty of open strings to add a sense of something bigger than just three people on stage; belting drums and wonderfully-named lead singer Ritzy Bryan adding some lazy (in a good way) vocals on top.
It’s a method that’s more or less repeated on ‘I Don’t Want To See You Like This’, ‘A Heavy Abacus’ and the shorter, sharper ‘Cradle’. The album is also book-ended by two more examples of the formula; with the brave seven-minute opener ‘The Everchanging Spectrum of A Lie’ and five-minute plus finale ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’ (not ones for derivative titles at least). Both buy enough goodwill with their upbeat tempo to just about justify the longer running times.
A few more moods would be welcome sure but it’s not a deal-breaker, indeed The Big Roar is ultimately a success because it knows exactly what it wants to be – crowd-pleasing anthemic guitar music – and in this respect it whacks the nail on the head with a very enjoyable thump.