A Lamb in Wolf’s Clothing
So much for the sophomore slump! Winding around capably from their 2011 debut, The Big Roar, Welsh alt-rockers The Joy Formidable give us nothing short of a musical education in Wolf’s Law, a seamless mesh of singalong pop, meaty grunge hooks and British Isles bucolia.
Yes, unlikely as it may seem, according to Wolf’s Law chapters 1 through 11, arena-dialed guitars, Kate Bush-caliber singing and a cannonade of booming synths not only belong together, but were fated—nay, actively pre-ordained—to coalesce in an impossible harmony of gilded angst and crackpot glam.
Giant opener “Cholla” may swing its fuzzed-out riff like a cudgel, but the song’s hop-along synth invokes the gaiety of a storybook rabbit. Its sporty, adventurous verse gives way to an anvil-beating chorus, with singer-guitarist Ritzy Bryan coming off like an estrogenic, latter-day Billy Corgan. “The Leopard and the Lung,” too, is a wildly natural union of kingly synth pop and cutting guitar work. Its dithering, martial progression is blanketed in Bryan’s cumulus vocal. Later, a bridge of acoustic strums and high-note keys give way to the song’s climactic—and very, very loud—outro. Sometimes your head is meant to keep spinning.
Plain and simple, this is great music. Wolf’s Law is 11 splendorous stones in a crown of ire, spunk and jubilation. From the stark, Welsh beauty of “Silent Treatment” to the overdriven guitar attack of “The Hurdle,” which bustles and bangs like a wood nymph Weezer, you can’t help but be dazzled. The Joy Formidable weave a whimsical Mother Goose tale, a from-the-dust melodic gentle giant—one of high-drama longing and candy-coated unease. Call it “aggro-pomp.” Call it “sugargaze.” Call it any silly, synthetic neologism you want—just don’t call it anything but a damned fine album.