Located within the United Kingdom, the small country of Wales has been a surprisingly rich hotbed of musical talent over the last half-century. Originally, they were known for producing legendary singers such as Bonnie Tyler and Tom Jones, but they also have a surprisingly rich rock history as well. It began with Badfinger in the 1960s, but now many bands grace the global scene, from the cheeky indie-pop of Marina and the Diamonds and the headbanging metal of Bullet for My Valentine to even the blistering pop-punk of Neck Deep. But other bands have flown slightly under the radar globally. The Joy Formidable, who blend a mix of dreamy indie and rumbling post-punk influences, have achieved moderate success in the UK but never quite caught on outside of there. Still, they’ve carved out a successful niche in the scene for themselves, and now 10 years later, they’re all set to re-release their debut EP, A Balloon Called Moaning.
The songs on the EP were already solid, as several of them later made it onto their debut LP a few years later, but the band made the decision to have the re-release be a double album. The first half is the original untouched songs themselves, but in the other half, all the songs are dramatically altered instrumentally and sung in Welsh.
Obviously, Welsh is a very unconventional language, unlike any other on the planet (example: there’s a town titled Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch) so the band’s already unorthodox sound gains an even more unorthodox dimension. Fuzz-heavy rockers like “Cradle” and “While the Flies” become dreamier and more tender, while their punchy, reverb-drenched breakout single “Austere” gains a beautiful sonic tapestry with the layered acoustic guitars. The most interesting switch-up though is “9669.” It used to be acoustic, but the Welsh version is chock-full of spacey electronics and dulled drums. The vocal interplay between vocalist/guitarist Ritzy Bryan and bassist Rhydian Davies is stronger than ever.
Overall, the Joy Formidable’s loyal fanbase, especially the ones in their home country, will love this release for both its nostalgia and its eccentricity. The Welsh may not mean much to fans anywhere else, but ultimately this release serves its purpose as a thank you for their home country’s loyalty.