Wolf's LawAlbum | The Joy Formidable By Stewart Mason
A disappointing sophomore slump.
The Joy Formidable could never be accused of subtlety: the Welsh trio called their debut album The Big Roar, an apt title for a disc that sounded like all the best bits of the Ride/Swervedriver axis of early '90s shoegaze given a steroidal boost, with the delightfully-named Ritzy Bryan's powerhouse vocals in place of the usual monochromatic mumble. And happily, they got the notice they deserved: seemingly endless touring, both on the club circuit and as an opening act for the likes of Muse and Foo Fighters, turned the single "Whirring" into something close to a mainstream hit and set up expectations that the band's second album would vault them into the front ranks of what used to be called the alternative music scene.
Unfortunately, the overblown Wolf's Law suggests that secretly, Ritzy and the boys really just wanted to be the next Smashing Pumpkins all along. The album starts promisingly enough with the explosive first single "This Ladder Is Ours," but by a third of the way into the disc, that energy starts to sound shrill and artificial, as if the band are convinced that if they're not hurtling along full-tilt the entire time, their audience will lose interest. (One supposes any band who has spent a lot of time in the unforgiving opening-act tier starts to feel this way, but it rarely transfers to the studio so baldly.) With the echoing, largely acoustic ballad "Silent Treatment," Wolf's Law takes a much-needed breather, and for a moment, it looks like the shift in dynamics will steady the album. And then the nearly seven-minute "Maw Maw Song" ruins everything: a song so ludicrously over the top that you hope its shifts from sequencer-driven Eurodisco to bombastic '70s FM rawk are meant as a joke. But while the bizarre cat-call chorus suggests it might be, the seemingly endless twiddly arena-prog guitar solo suggests that they meant for it to sound like this, and they're proud of the results. Unfortunately, it just stops the album cold, blunting the impact of potentially more appealing later change-ups like "The Leopard and the Lung" and the unexpectedly Florence and the Machine-echoing "The Hurdle." That massive misstep aside, Wolf's Law isn't necessarily a bad album, but it sounds like the work of a band that wants to break through to the next career level but isn't quite sure yet how to go about doing that. I suspect their third album will either be brilliant or appalling.
|This Ladder Is Ours|