Editors' pick

The Joy Formidable


Editorial Review

Album review: "The Big Roar"
By Dan Miller
Friday, Mar. 23, 2012

The Joy Formidable's debut full-length album, "The Big Roar," harks back to the age of flannel and the Clinton administration. With angst-driven fury, the music recalls '90s female-fronted "alternative rock" bands in which the vocals were glossy and girly and the guitars loud and dirty.

"The Big Roar" certainly lives up to its name: Magnetic frontwoman Ritzy Bryan leads the Welsh trio with gusto, belting out lyrics while her amp is turned even higher. In fact, with their rich guitar landscapes, some tracks can verge on the cacophonous.

The song "The Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie" builds into a hurricane of rattling cymbals and distorted guitars. "The Magnifying Glass" is a thunderstorm of stomping drums, heavy guitars and distorted vocals, and the six-minute-plus "Whirring" features prolonged (and a bit indulgent) guitar shredding.

Standout track "A Heavy Abacus" has a little more breathing room, following the '90s model of quiet verses leading to loud, anthemic choruses.

It's hard to figure out exactly where the Joy Formidable fits into the current music landscape. Is the band at the forefront of a '90s revival or updating an old template with its own over-the-top style? Either way, it's easy to admire the band's bravado and ambition, but "The Big Roar" can seem two-dimensional in its attempts to blow listeners away through the volume of their speakers.