33 The Joy Formidable: Into the Blue

2018 #16, 2016 #112 (!!!), 2013 #15

They came number one hundred and twelfth in 2016?! Sorry, I’ve just made myself feel a little ill by reminding myself of how many fucking albums I used to include on this dumb year end list that nobody reads. I did one hundred and seventeen albums in total that year, in one of the greatest years for music of the last two decades at least, so The Joys were unfortunately near the bottom of the pile with easily their weakest album. Dead bottom was Damian Lazarus who – and you’ll like this – actually slagged me off on Twitter because of the review!! I mean, fuck me, I know these days I am The Most Trusted Voice in Music™, but back then I think I had about 300 views in total across the whole year!! I had only just started my current Twitter account and had nine followers!! Damian Lazarus, you absolute fucking muppet.

That retweet was from me, because it was fucking hilarious. And I stand with my response at the time:

I still think I suit a bald head,you know?

So, is rock dead? Marilyn Manson wrote a song declaring so in 1999, and I see no recent evidence that we should in any way mistrust or disbelieve either his theories or his methods. I am, as I’ve previously stated, older than Arlo Parks and younger than Caroline Shaw, and have heard people bemoaning the death of rock music my entire life. Apart from the mid 90s, maybe. Because we had BritPop. So that’s your Faustian pact – rock can ether be dead, or it can be Cast. I have also been alive and borderline conscious enough to notice bands that have appeared sporadically over the past twenty five years or so who have excitedly been pronounced the ‘saviours of rock’. The White Stripes ‘saved rock and roll’ with their 2001 album ‘White Blood Cells’, or maybe the Arctic Monkeys saved rock music (probably after finding out it was tax refundable), or maybe (and this will surprise you) Limp Bizkit and Korn saved rock music. In 2017, it was announced that Josh Homme can save it, but I’m not sure we ever got any follow up on how that went. Even Justin Bieber had a go, God bless him. It’s occasionally even left to non human concepts to save rock music. Guitar Hero will save it, the occult can save it, Fall Out Boy’s 2013 will save it. In 2017, someone called Jake Kilroy announced that, “thanks to Obama”, he was out of money and would be selling his treasured 1983 Yamaha P22 “That can and WILL save rock and roll” on Craigslist. Do we know who purchased that? Was it Josh Homme? What about NFTs? Sure, they can save it as well… if by ‘NFT’ you mean nice fuckin’ tiddies!!! Whoaaaaaaah! Boom! Now that’s rock and roll!

Maybe it is dead. Elvis is dead. As is Jimi Hendrix. And Jim Morrison. Oh, and then there’s Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, George Harrison, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty… And, seriously, how long have a lot of the others got left? Bob Dylan (80), Paul McCartney (79), Simon (80) & Garfunkel (80), Carole King (79), Brian Wilson (79), Mick Jagger (78), Keith Richards (77), Joni Mitchell (78), Jimmy Page (77), Robert Plant (73), Ray Davis (77), Roger Daltrey (77), Gary Glitter (77), Pete Townsend (76), Patti Smith (74), Roger Waters (78), David Gilmour (75), Rod Stewart (76), Eric Clapton (76), Debbie Harry (76), Neil Young (76), Van Morrison (76), Bryan Ferry (76), Billy Joel (72) and Bruce Springsteen (72)? How many boorish antivax sentiments have all these pasty boomers got left in them?

Guess what? They’re all going to die. And so will you and everyone you love. But why does that matter? Look at that list of grumpy old white dudes, how have any of them have actually contributed anything to ‘rock music’ during your lifetime anyway? Kurt Cobain has released a more recent relevant and notable album than almost every single one of those people mentioned, and he died almost thirty years ago. What do we mean when we say ‘rock music’ anyway? Amplified and maybe distorted electric guitars, bass and drums? Melodic if frequently abrasive lead vocals? Shit, the decent ones among the people I’ve mentioned (Prince, Bowie, Joplin, Reed, maybe Pink Floyd, as long as that beardy guy who’s cornered you at a party will promise to shut the fuck up about them for two seconds) were already kicking against those stylistic boundaries. At least one of them (Prince) would never have been considered part of the rock canon, for obvious reasons, and people like Carole King (about as ‘rock’ as Karen Carpenter. As in, they’re both obviously awesome, but don’t need to be squeezed into this category to tick boxes), Janis Joplin and Patti Smith stick out as obvious outliers. Because when people mourn the death of ‘rock music’, they’re really mourning the loss of the days when proper popular music was a safehaven for white, straight dudes and unashamed machismo. That claim by Jonathan Davis that Limp Bizkit and his band KoЯn (thankyou, Cate Wurtz) saved rock music may sound laughable on the surface, but it does actually reveal the dark truth behind the statement. “I’m not trying to be arrogant or nothing, but it was like … us against the pop bands, us against the Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys”. And Nu-Metal really was the last, hideously toxic, overwhelmingly male stand against the horrors of girl’s music.

Oh yeah, Jonathan, thank God you saved us from this with cool shit like Coming Undone

Oh, and also, all those people I mentioned? You do realise that a good 80% of them are either racists or paedophiles? I’m no sure I want that shit resurrected.

So, is rock dead? Literally, it actually does not matter and nobody gives a shit. Is it the most popular musical genre at the moment? No. I believe that‘s Bubblegrunge. I there still reams upon reams of amazing rock music out there if you cared even remotely enough to search it out? Of course there fucking is. Will you search it out? No. Because, you might not realise it, but when you mourn rock being dead, what you’re actually mourning is your youth, and that’s never coming back. You’re going to die soon and it won’t even warrant a mentioning the local paper. Unless you, like, take out a crowd of people before turning the gun on yourself. You’ve reached an age now when you should seriously be considering that option.

And, holy-mother-of-Ronnie-James-Dio, are the Joy Formidable one of those outstanding rock bands that you might find? Apart from that weird and unusual misstep with the aforementioned wet fart ‘Hitch’ album, the Welsh rockers have spent a decade now being perhaps the greatest and most consistent pure rock band in the world, and ‘Into the Blue’ is further evidence of their peerless and tragically underappreciated talents. One slight complaint is – despite pre-release claims that their fifth album would represent some brave step into electronica and seemingly sound like Aphex Twin remixing ‘Kid A’ using nothing but 1984 Casio calculators, it still sounds very much like The Joy Formidable, and despite it no being a bad thing at all isn’t easily differentiated from 2018’s cock busting ‘AAARTH’. Now, there a few better things to sound like musically than ‘AAARTH’, but I worry that another album following the same structure may prove to much, and proper changes on their next record might be due. Also, and this is an issue that has plagued CHVRCHES for time immemorial, but why does the bloke have to sing some tracks? Pipe down, you’ve got a good thing going on here. So, erm, yeah, make some changes, but not those changes, yeah? Glad we’re clear.

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