Dylan Thomas. Catherine Zeta-Jones. Tom Jones. A law banning all use of vowels. The Joy Formidable. These are the best things about Wales.
If you drink the nectar of modern alt-rock radio, you’ve beaten your steering wheel to a leathery pulp to the tune of 2011’s “Whirring.” That single, galloping out of Welsh trio The Joy Formidable’s debut full-length, The Big Roar, is an excellent litmus test for potential enjoyment of the band’s latest, Wolf’s Law. If having a panic attack isn’t in your bailiwick, close your browser window and go put on “What’s New, Pussycat?”
Wolf’s Law is big and urgent and vital and ambitious and just-has-places-to-be-man. While most albums are applying for a 9-to-5 job and hoping to get a call back, Wolf’s Law already knows the boss by his first name and is taking him out for whiskey sours at a hotel bar. In simpler terms, this album is a trip.
Try “The Ladder Is Ours,” an opening track stylistically similar to “Whirring” in a delightful double-feature way. Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan puts on her best Shirley Manson suit at all times, with a voice engineered for maximum rock strutting and fingers programmed for muscular guitar riffs. If you still need convincing, just wait until the second track: “Cholla” is a sweeping tidal wave and a head banger par excellence.
The consistency of Wolf’s Law deserves a medal, a gold star, and probably an EGOT. To craft an album that renders the “skip” button useless is a rare feat, usually reserved for those big masterpiece concept albums, but The Joy Formidable just cranks out turbo-charged hook after hook to get the job done. There’s influence to spare, from the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy flavored intro of “Tendons” to the decidedly Silversun Pickups-ish “Little Blimp” to the Foo Fighting of “Bats.” When an album actually figures out the right notes to emulate, it’s hard not to be grateful.
If we’re talking influence, we need to cut to the chase and address “Maw Maw Song,” the intoxicating, genetically engineered superbaby of Led Zeppelin, Metric, the Muppets and “Pitch Perfect.” Don’t think too hard about that one — just listen. Maw maw, ma-ma-ma-ma-mawwww.
With wild, bloodthirsty glee and impeccable taste, Wolf’s Law savages any notion of restraint or sobriety. It’s less an indie-rock album and more a Viking war ship crashing through the sea on its way to pillage your senses. When was the last time you said that about Catherine Zeta-Jones?
(1) “This Ladder Is Ours”
(4) “Little Blimps”
(7) “Maw Maw Song”
(8) “Forest Serenade”