Having enamoured various alt-rock royalty including Dave Grohl and Shirley Manson with their 2011 debut, The Big Roar, Welsh trio The Joy Formidable are perhaps the ideal first band out of the block to test the whole ‘guitar music will come back with a vengeance in 2013’ theory. Mining a similar blend of dream-pop, post-grunge, shoegaze, metal and indie-rock, their sophomore, Wolf’s Law, was recorded in a snowbound cabin in Maine during the midwinter season, hence the constant references to the environment and Mother Nature. But amidst tributes to Kenyan activists and tales of Native American mythology, it’s the more personal themes of love, loss and heartbreak which resonate the most. Here’s a look at five of its most compelling lyrics.
The picturesque surroundings Wolf’s Law was conceived in explains the Cinerama intro but “This Ladder Is Ours” soon reverts back to more familiar territory with a typically colossal wave of grunge-pop riffs and emphatic beats which perhaps reflect the intensity of the troubled relationship discussed. Themes of fear and self-loathing are addressed but the anthemic cries of the song’s title suggests the protagonists have realized that their destiny is in their own hands and that they aren’t an entirely lost cause: [LISTEN]
Let’s take this walk it’s overdue.
Let’s sit and talk and slow things down.
Just be our old selves again finally.
Let’s take this walk
Let’s take a walk to somewhere pretty
Judging by their sudden fascination with all things zoological, geological and botanical, the ‘cholla’ in question is more likely to have been inspired by the species of cacti than the South Korean province, the Nevada painting horse or the Jewish bread. But this epic slice of gothic fuzz-rock is much more uncertain elsewhere with a statement of anxiety, confusion and helplessness that could be interpreted as a mantra for the recession just as much as a death knell for a hopeless affair: [LISTEN]
You rush to the future and paint it yourself
Together we’re lucky
Together we’re set
When nothing comes easy
Only the finest are left
Self-described as the closest they’ve come to a love song, the powerhouse alt-pop of “Tendons” offers a rare personal insight into guitarist Dafydd and frontwoman Bryan’s inter-band relationship. Comparing their ability to withstand the pressure that comes with spending every waking minute together to the fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone, there’s also an admirable honesty to its question of whether they would snap once outside the safety zone of the rock n’ roll treadmill: [LISTEN]
I can’t decide what needs building
What needs digging and what needs filling in
This love, this love is like a swarm
We can’t see through it
Written following the death of Bryan’s grandfather, a man who knew more about the band than the band themselves, the album’s closer sees the trio pay their respects with a gorgeous orchestral torch song that sits somewhere between Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and the Broadway stage. A welcome moment of tenderness amongst all the layers of noise, Bryan has understandably never sounded more sincere as she reflects on the heartache of losing her biggest fan: [LISTEN]
Hey, I’m going to stay and wait for the turnaround
Hey, I’m going to stay here and make this come around
Come back now (come back now)
We’re waiting (we’re waiting)
A suitably hushed affair, “Silent Treatment“ sees the band ditch their trademark distortion and instead veer into wistful folk-pop territory for a brief moment of melancholy. Possibly the only instance where Bryan’s claims to prefer a wall of silence to a wall of noise would ring true, the sparse acoustic ballad may sound surprisingly cosy but there’s a steeliness to her vow of independence which proves the band can remain just as formidable when slowing down the pace. [LISTEN]
I’ll wait up watching time
You tumble home safe inside
Twisted now but at the time
No fear, the treasured prize