The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
IF POWER rock anthems are you’re scene then The Joy Formidable’s latest LP, Wolf’s Law, will tick all the right boxes. But be warned: you can also have too much of a good thing.
Produced and recorded by the band in North Wales, London and mixed by the renowned Andy Wallace, this has an emphasis on towering guitar-driven tracks that look to justify the NME’s decision to refer to them as “the next big British guitar band”.
There’s grit, there’s melody, there’s power and, crucially, there’s restraint too. Wolf’s Law never overdoes the excess and tips its hat to everyone from Muse to Paramore via Ash and some of the classic acts of yesteryear.
The only criticism really stems from a lack of diversity. The Joy Formidable are content to belt out the tracks and aspire to create one anthemic skyscraper after the next; but the effect threatens to become wearying come the end and it’s perhaps no surprise that once you’ve listened to the album two or three times, the standouts are those that veer towards the heavier and more pronounced or the one moment of genuine tenderness.
In the latter’s case, it’s Silent Treatment that resonates, emerging as a genuinely intimate, acoustically strummed offering that finds Ritzy Bryan at her most innocent and vulnerable. It’s a clear highlight and a very definite cigarette lighter moment.
What’s more, it’s immediately followed by another in the form of the heavier, crunching Maw Maw Song, which drops some of the best riffs on the LP and a melodic “maw maw” refrain that’s ripe for sing-along appeal in live form. It’s a track with real fire to contrast the tenderness that came immediately before it.
Elsewhere, album opener This Ladder Is Ours is a rousing opener that marries rock and pop to intelligent effect, Tendons underlines the band’s ability to mix radio-friendly melodies with something heavier (it’s their Paramore moment, complete with a sense of yearning throughout), while Bats adds some nice distortion and leans towards the heaviness of Smashing Pumpkins in some of the riffs.
The woo-hoo harmonies that shoot through Forest Serenade recall some of Feeder’s work early on, even if the track struggles to really stand out afterwards, The Leopard And The Lung combines some tingling electronics with a nice line in power riffs and could well end up on a soundtrack, and The Turnaround is an intricately layered, slow-building epic that serves as a fine precursor to the similarly epic Wolf’s Law.
And throughout, there’s a lot of thought in the lyricism, with The Leopard And The Lung, especially, standing out as a tribute to Kenyan environmental campaigner Wangari Mathai, a tireless campaigner for both women’s rights and the ecology of her homeland. Maw Maw Song, meanwhile, targets greed and consumerism.
All told, Wolf’s Law is an impressive sophomore release that still has plenty to recommend in spite of its shortcomings.
Download picks: This Ladder Is Ours, Silent Treatment, Bats, The Leopard And The Lung, Wolf’s Law