The debut record by Welsh trio The Joy Formidable immediately recalls a 90s alt-rock radio moment bursting with magnetic front-women and thrillingly loud female guitarists. The relative parity of the sexes in rock is one aspect of that decade that deserves a genuine dollop of nostalgia. For a minute there, macho seemed pretty stale; even second-tier hitmakers like Veruca Salt were just blasting out marbled hooks, and grade-A drips like Scott Weiland had to put on a dress to seem like they knew what was going on. I'm not sure what happened to set us all the way back to feigned incredulousness about the heavy-osity of artists like Marnie Stern or Screaming Females' Marissa Padernoster. Do we blame The Strokes, maybe?
Though Ritzy Bryan provides both guitar and vocals on The Big Roar, the title aptly describes just her playing. Her clear, though buttoned-up vocal only really weirds out for wonderfully goony, wordless backing sounds (thankfully she makes them quite often). But boy is this record drunk on riffs, positively shit-faced. The band perpetually accelerates from what seemed to be a perfectly good little chug into full-on cathartic overdrive. It's a bit sad to note that included older singles "Cradle" and "Austere" remain un-topped for infectious energy, load-bearing basslines, and the empty spaces to really let Bryan's melodies and sudden intensity up-shifts leave a mark. The band has a tendency to give their other songs more time than they really demand. And while any individual minute of the record sounds pretty good as you're listening, all that rushing forward might tire you out by the end.