Welsh alt-rockers The Joy Formidable managed the near impossible on their debut back in 2011 – taking 90’s alternative and making it relevant in the modern world. While it certainly proved the winning formula on their first two albums, Hitch sees the band stagnate and at a loss as to evolve rather than revolve. The result is an album that is pleasant, if not slightly lost.
Album opener, Second In White, is pleasant with Ritzy Bryan putting her ability to convey a sense of vulnerability in her strong vocals to good use. However, the track lacks the capture of interest that a typical abum opener possesses, even with its high octane drums that remind you of their presence every now and again. Radio Of Lips is melodically stronger and packs a punch as their previous hits had too, yet it lasts too long; at over six minutes it just seems unnecessarily dramatic with no major changes to maintain your interest. The Last Thing On My Mind is one of the highlights of the album. Sounding like the love child of The Black Keys and the Arctic Monkeys with its blues inspired riff and huge chorus, it should be the template that the rest of the album follows but doesn’t. The Brook opens sounding like a song Tarantino would use on one of his western / gore movies before descending into a ballad, with Bryan’s voice stepped in echoes adding to the emotion of the song.
The Gift melts perfectly into Running Hands With The Night; raucous guitars erupts from the softness of the intro before they too pave the way for silky vocals, giving a sense of danger to the track. The drums also add to this, with their heavy handed beats strategically placed in the melody and, although it is the longest song on the album, it is easily the most listenable. Underneath The Petal is just one of the tracks where the band go all acoustic, attempting to add atmosphere to the album but unfortunately they fall flat.
The failure to add anything new to their sound and thus their musical catalogue is what adds to the feeling of stagnation with this album. Even on tracks where the sound is heavier and the lyrics brilliant, they sound reused or already heard from their previous work, in some cases even previous tracks on the album. Closing track Don’t Let Me Know follows the lead of Underneath The Petal and wipes out that last bit of hope that the band will do something new on the album. However, it shows that, despite not being at the top of their game with this third album, there are still some tracks that will surely become some of their best loved.
For fans of: Silversun Pickups, The Duke Spirit, Howling Bells
Words by Clara Duffy
‘Hitch’ by The Joy Formidable is out now on Atlantic Records.