The opening track of Wolf’s Law begins with 45 seconds of beautiful, swelling strings that are both pretty and haunting. In this time, I started to think that, perhaps, The Joy Formidable had produced a cinematic, intricate, well-constructed album that would propel them to superstardom. After all, from what can be gauged from their debut The Big Roar, it’s plain to see that superstardom is the level that the band is aiming for. Sadly, Wolf’s Law sees them fall into the same traps they did with their predecessor, only this time sustaining more lasting injuries.
For the criticisms that The Big Roar garnered, it did have a handful of cracking songs: ‘Austere’ is a charming slice of indie rock, and ‘The Magnifying Glass’ is powerful and punchy, but many felt that the album was simply oversaturated with too much of the same. Every song on that release was primed for festival and stadium stages. Perhaps it was naïve of me to think that the band would eventually tire of this repetitive shtick and try to evolve their sound.
It is baffling, then, that Wolf’s Law makes the exact same mistakes as The Big Roar, only this time shedding the charm which glued the latter together. It’s difficult to talk about any track in particular because they all sound the same with maybe two exceptions. ‘Bats’ is the closest the band comes to making a unique song, but even then it succumbs to the same tired formula as the others. ‘Silent Treatment’ is the only song that isn’t punctuated by soulless drumming, and it would probably be quite effective if it didn’t feel like the song was just shoved into the centre of the record to satisfy those who had qualms with The Big Roar. The vocal melody is actually very pleasant and rhythmic, but Ritzy Bryan’s voice is double tracked, and it removes any intimacy and sentimentality the song might have had if it were stripped down.
As for the other songs on the album, there’s no denying that some of them are admittedly lots of fun. The opener ‘This Ladder Is Ours’ is mostly harmless and makes for a catchy single, and ‘Maw Maw Song’ is enjoyable enough to elicit a bobbing of the head, but the problems with these examples are repeated over the entire course of the bloated 52 minute running time. The production squeezes all of the instruments together and purges them of their individuality, each song has the same tones both vocally and instrumentally, and far too often does the chorus just mimic the main riff. There is so little variation that it is a real struggle to see the album through to its conclusion.
Unfortunately, those who live for the mundane music of summer festivals will lap this up without second thought, and I fear that as a result, The Joy Formidable are doomed to repeat these mistakes for any future releases – a shame considering the rare glimpses of potential inherent in some of their songs. Perhaps though, and forgive me for being sardonic, they’re not too fussed about forging an interesting and engaging release so long as they get that headline spot at Glastonbury that they so clearly, desperately crave.