The Joy Formidable
Wolf's Law


3.0
good

Review

by Ali CONTRIBUTOR (130 Reviews)
January 20th, 2013 | 29 replies


Release Date: 01/22/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A loud and distorted exercise in damage limitation.

I must admit, I feared for The Joy Formidable towards the end of the Big Roar cycle. It might have began with a sea of critical acclaim and a thoroughly impressive debut LP, but come the end of 2011 the Welsh trio were visibly and audibly floundering; their live shows grinding to stagnation as month upon month wringing the same 10 or so songs gradually took its toll. The enthusiasm remained, but it was patently obvious the band was approaching burnout, with the million dollar question being whether or not they could pick up the pieces ahead of their eagerly awaited comeback. Try though it does (oh, it really does try...), Wolf's Law is a record which fails to provide concrete answers - a curious document of an outfit who're thriving commercially but toiling in practically every other aspect.

Even for those who didn't witness their deterioration, it's immediately clear this is a very different group to the one which broke through two years ago. Gone are the joyous, addictive anthems in the ilk of 'Austre,' 'Cradles' and 'Whirring,' replaced by a plethora of unconvincing hooks and week choruses, while the exhilarating jams which bookended their best songs are also conspicuous in their absence. It's not at all reactionary to say their Midas touch seems to have deserved them, but despite looking for all the world like the classic 'sophomore slump,' this is in fact a record which pulls of a commendable and to a degree successful cover-up job.

Perhaps mindful of their own creative dearth, this material by and large sees The Joy Formidable attempt to curb the backwards momentum with sheer muscularity, essentially abandoning those initial pop flurries in favour of a more thick-skinned approach. This change in emphasis is perhaps best exhibited on early cut 'Cholla,' whose huge throbbing riffs and thudding basslines do a fine job in deflecting the spotlight from an arrangement which is otherwise flimsy at best. Along with beasts like 'Maw Maw Song,' it's a shift which enhances their rock credentials tenfold, not least because it's also charged with offsetting a wave of strings, harps and keys which on the whole are completely excessive and if anything detrimental. In fairness, there are also a handful of moments where such a salvaging job isn't necessary. Opener 'This Ladder Is Ours,' for example manages to recall a portion of The Big Roar's spark (it's a fair bet it was penned early on in the writing process) while 'The Leopard And The Lung,' makes a valiant - albeit not entirely fruitful - bid to emulate the splendour of 'The Greatest Life Is The Greatest Shade' - though in truth their regression acts are welcome exceptions as opposed to pattern.

Another one-off which is perhaps more indicative of The Joy Formidable's current plight is 'The Turnaround,' which turns the volume down in its attempt to craft a more reflective conclusion. Unfortunately, the outcome could scarcely be more adverse; its lifeless form destined to lumber even without the choking string ensemble, which succeeds only in bogging its dregs down even further. In a bizarre way, though, Wolf's Law's biggest victory may in fact be that these troughs don't occur more frequently amid of such an obvious creative rut - never mind the fact its papering over by and large proves rather enjoyable. It doesn't depict a bright future, and isn't a trick they're likely to get away with again, but nevertheless manages to make the best of a decidedly bleak situation.



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user ratings (62)
Chart.
3
good
other reviews of this album
sustainthesatan (2)
Generic, Unappealing and boring, this is musical regression in its purest form and the Joy Formidabl...


Comments:Add a Comment 
AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
January 20th 2013


7357 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Also posted at: http://www.muzikdizcovery.com/

Stream: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/the-joy-formidable-reach-for-rock-heights-on-wolfs-law-album-premiere-20130116

This is a strange one for me. I've had it a while, and really enjoyed my first few listens, but since then I've seemed to like it less with each new spin.

Comments and critique much appreciated!

Brostep
Staff Reviewer
January 20th 2013


3469 Comments


Good review, have a pos, critique (hopefully) coming later. Shame this is just OK, I thought The Big Roar was a solid debut ad I would have liked to see a stronger sophomore release.

Calc
January 20th 2013


12249 Comments


good stuff ali. badass cover art on this one.

Digging: Milo - A Toothpaste Suburb

InfamousGrouse
January 20th 2013


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Nice review, Ali. It's a shame it's growing off you slightly, I feel like I'm the only one flying the flag for it.

DaveyBoy
Staff Reviewer
January 20th 2013


20857 Comments

Album Rating: 3.6

I've never seen the term "who're" written that way. Unsure I'd ever use it either - for obvious reasons.

Nice review Ali. Sounds like it's the replay value which is lacking here, but I'm still keen to give this a listen.

bloc
January 20th 2013


34919 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Definitely not as good as the previous, but this is still more of the same stuff I'd say.

sustainthesatan
January 21st 2013


212 Comments


this is boring , badly produced nonsense

Killerhit
January 21st 2013


5254 Comments


pretty boring

iGuter
January 23rd 2013


352 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I disagree with a lot of what you're saying, but I agree it's not very concrete. I thought it was just a great rock anthem. Great review though.

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iGuter
January 23rd 2013


352 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I wouldn't call this a "sophomore slump" at all though. A step down? Yeah maybe a step or two.

InfamousGrouse
January 23rd 2013


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

that tower of 2s is completely irrational but yeah

InfamousGrouse
January 23rd 2013


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

you make it sound like the big roar was a masterpiece

Sanders
January 23rd 2013


2353 Comments


Zane Lowe whored out This Ladder Is Ours a fair bit, quite liked that track

Sanders
January 23rd 2013


2353 Comments


Or should that be who'red, amirite davey

InfamousGrouse
January 23rd 2013


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This Ladder Is Ours is fantastic

North0House2
January 23rd 2013


5873 Comments


I haven't listened to this

BUT HOLY CRAP THAT ALBUM ART IS FANTASTIC.

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henryChinaski
January 24th 2013


2789 Comments


Love that album art.

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DoubtGin
January 24th 2013


6752 Comments


still great but disappointing, I miss the noise

greg84
Staff Reviewer
January 24th 2013


7417 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Ace review Ali. Is it just me or does it seem harsher than a 3? The album has some great tracks for sure. It reminds of The Smashing Pumpkins.

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jefflebowski
January 24th 2013


8253 Comments


i find this far more interesting than the debut, which was basically the same song over and over



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