It was said of the writer James Joyce that in order to artistically ‘breathe’ he had to ‘break all the windows’. It is an image that resonates with The Joy Formidable: this band is so desperate to be arena-successful, it will attempt edgy artistic nuance by destroying what little decent music it has. ‘Bats’ and ‘This Ladder is Ours’ just reek of excess: a constant clamour as each instrument tries to be heard over the other.
Still, Wolf’s Law does have its highlights, mostly when the band experiments. You can’t help but admire a band willing to write a song in five beats per bar: it shows a spirit of originality and at least an attempt to cover new ground. The simple plod of ‘Little Blimp’ is genuinely enjoyable, as a head-banging-offbeat
bass riff carries the main focus. There is a high point of the album, as well, in the song ‘Silent Treatment’, with its daintiness of tone, thoughtful instrumental delivery and skilful interweaving of melodies.
The album is a demonstration of that tiresome cliché ‘less is more’. On the one hand, there are these mindless walls of sound in ‘This Ladder is Ours’, the chorus of ‘Tendons’ and ‘The Leopard and The Lung’, which are all kinds of musical anaesthetics that numb the distinction between music and noise.
But on the other, we get some beautiful understanding of the music, as in ‘Silent Treatment’ and the detailed composition of ‘The Hurdle’. It is certainly worth a listen, if you can ignore the moments of wanton over-production, and uncover this album’s rare little sparkles.