February 6, 2009
The Joy Formidable
Trust us, the record is well worth waiting for…Sheffield (January 22)
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Sometimes, when you fall utterly in love with a band’s recorded output, hearing those same songs in a live setting proves frustrating. So it is with The Joy Formidable, who’ve not been far from NME’s stereo since a copy of forthcoming mini-album ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ dropped through our letterbox. That disc’s opener, ‘The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade’, kicks things off in promising fashion, with guitarist Ritzy Bryan’s head-spinning array of pedals conjuring up anaesthetising waves of noise while Rhydian Dafydd’s bass sounds, well, not very much like a bass at all. “This dream is/This dream is/In a telescope now”, purrs Bryan, and whether it’s an ode to astronomy or something less literal is irrelevant. It’s an ethereal, otherworldly sonic maelstrom, but one that tonight, unfortunately, sets the bar a little too high for the rest of the set.
The problem isn’t so much with what they play, it’s more what they don’t play. See, they’ve obviously worked meticulously on these songs in their home studio (much of ‘A Balloon Called Moaning’ was recorded in the couple’s bedroom), layering them up with so much My Bloody Valentine-esque nuance and fuzz, but they seem to struggle to recreate those textures in the live setting. New single ‘Cradle’, for instance, sees them skipping a musical generation and sounding more like a Britpop act – just check out those “Ooh-ooh-ooh” Supergrass-y backing vocals – than a shoegaze-inspired pop outfit. No wonder the group of lads moshing gingerly at the front seem to think they’re at an Oasis gig.
Closing track ‘Austere’ – just that on record but totally flat tonight – completes the malaise, with Bryan forgetting to direct her mouth at the microphone as she does battle with her stomp-boxes while the track peters out instead of reaching its peak. And the petulant fashion in which the singer then kicks over the mic stand and departs the stage as her bandmates finish the song suggests we’re not the only one left disappointed by what we’ve heard from The Joy Formidable this evening.
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