Friday, March 18, 2011


Some groups or artists get popular and it's easy to understand why it happens: a combination of marketing ploys, and crowd pleasing hooks, and whomp, there it is. Most of the time, it's a bit more obscure, and of those times, it's usually obscure to some, but not all. I chalk it up to a more targeted attack on certain demographics, and if you're not one of them, you'll never understand. Sometimes, there's a surprise, but such surprises are usually fleeting. This is why pop culture tends to be seen as "greasy kids stuff" and "fluff" and ephemera- the resonance of a deeply shared communication has very little place in such by-rote transactions. It's supposed to be different for the Alterna- Indie- Artsy- or Adult contemporary folks; you'll note the irony that I can name the demographics instantly, and easily. Sorry if you haven't heard it before, but it's all the same- We are all teenyboppers, in the modern marketplace of culture. It doesn't matter if you're talking about Yo Yo Ma, Radiohead, Katie Perry, Alan Jackson or Dimmu Borgir, it's all a commercial transaction based upon the same combination of hooks, advertising and identity.
So, jaded as I am, cynical as I am, I still enjoy wading in to the pop culture morass, and I'm enthusiastic about it. Much like Greek mystery plays, I already know the story, but I enjoy the telling, because the way it goes has individual pleasures for me. However, I'm awake, and self-aware, and I know when there's something amiss. Such is the case with the Joy Formidable. Something about their "small town girl makes good" story seems a bit too mythic, and fits a bit too hand-in-glove with the secondary "girls just wanna have fun" byline about tiny welsh girls making big guitar rackets. You mean to tell me, in this age of Internet connectedness, that some little welsh girl isn't canny enough, nor informed enough to make the connections between English Twee pop, Shoegazer revivalism, and Post-metal noisiness on her own, and just came about that sound like some kind of primativist? I doubt it. You mean to tell me that a world-traveller is just some introvert, smitten with the majesty of her native land? Yeah, right- tell me another one, Polly, you're not rid of me. Hell, even the Wiki page reads like Ad copy. I give them 2 albums, tops, before the story wears thin.
However, like i said, I'm an enthusiast, and I'm a fan of their symphonically lush and loud indie pop, so i have an idea for them- Justin Broaderick. The thought came to me whilst listening to the new version of "Whirring" on the new release "The Big Roar"- the drums share an obvious connection with early Jesu, as do a lot of the guitar/electronic tones. ( You want a nutshell description of their sound? Siouxsie Sue meets Jesu, to play Lush songs. There you go, you got it) Here's the narrative twist- get Broaderick to produce the next record. Go very minimal and goth on a lot of the aesthetics. Think mid-period Godflesh meets This mortal Coil. Do a bunch of Hip-hop inspired remixes ( clearly they're hurting for new material- the two standout tracks are the same two standout tracks from the prior mini album, one even recycled twice from their first single). Maybe get some collaborations going, though that might be pushing it. Besides getting exposure with a new potential demographic, you can exploit the whole naif goes to the big city, gets burned and bitter narrative, and then go back and do another record of lush and lively pop songs- a "return to form"- only "older and wiser". That'll give you about a five record career, which would be respectable, and sure to garner you a lifelong career in the business of one form or another.
In the meantime, for us listeners taking this new release as it is, here's my advice- listen to it. It might very well be the only record you'll ever need by them, but it's a good listen. It has some very pretty parts, and some real thunder, and it's not just pablum. I think it's much more worthwhile than last year's mini-album which was decent, but a bit perfunctory, and overshadowed by hype surrounding it. The standout tracks, as always are Austere and Whirring, which could also be a description of their drum sound, but the guitars are mixed with electronics, and effected, and multi-tracked to a symphonic extreme- like Broaderick is noted for doing- but with a more oceanic, more sweet tone than even Jesu produces- giving it a very lush, and dreamy feel, like the louder Shoegazer bands. To return to my cynical tone- the music basically covers the aesthetics of folks into modern Alt-Rock who predate Grunge, like me.

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