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Album Review: Hitch by The Joy Formidable

Welsh alt rock trio The Joy Formidable released their third album Hitch on 25th March. While for the most part Hitch delivers up what you’ve come to expect, there are a couple of surprises thrown in. Perhaps most surprising is the fact that it comes across as the band’s weakest album to date.

Before we get any further it has to be stressed that this isn’t a bad album. For your average rock band this would be considered their strongest, but for The Joy Formidable you feel that there’s something missing. It doesn’t have the life affirming oomph of The Big Roar (2011) or the big, engrossing pomp of Wolf’s Law (2013). Perhaps it’s the result of the breakup of Ritzy Bryan (vocals/guitar) and Rhydian Davies (bass/backing vocals) but Hitch just seems to lack the magic of previous material.

There’s a distinct lack of a big infectious lead track here too. There’s no ‘Whirring’ or ‘The Ladder Is Ours’, they come close a couple times with ‘Radio Lips’ and ‘The Last Thing on My Mind’ but both fall short.  Both tracks fall foul of a common problem within Hitch, they’re bloated and lack a concise structure that grabs and keeps your attention. The former especially has the potential to be one of those trademark Joy Formidable tracks until the track meanders off into distended guitar parts that aim for expansiveness but come over as a tad aimless. The latter clocks in at over six minutes, yet will only keep you attention for half of that.

It’s such a common theme that there’s only ‘The Gift’ and ‘Fog (Black Windows)’ that don’t fall foul of it. The former is a delightful fragile track that strikes a raw emotional chord, while the latter also brings the tempo down a notch the simmering energy excites and the track generally revels under Ritzy’s wonderful vocal. While the track isn’t as instantaneous as the band’s previous ‘hits’ it stands out as being up there with the band’s best work. ‘Liana’ is another track that threatens excellence. It’s the perfect opportunity to appreciate the talent within The Joy Formidable and to witness what they do best when the track explodes into a storming alt rock track in the fourth minute with a cacophony of guitars. You just wish that they could have trimmed the fat a little.

On the whole Hitch is an enjoyable album, but it’s one that you need concerted effort to appreciate fully. It doesn’t grab you and fades into the background far too often. You can’t help but feel a little disappointed; The Joy Formidable could be and should be better than this.  The drum solo opening of ‘It’s Started’ sums up what’s wrong with Hitch perfectly – overblown. Extended versions of tracks work well for the band in a live environment, on record not so much.

AD Rating 6/10

 

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