The Joy Formidable, Chapel Club, Flats
NME Radar Tour
Cardiff Millennium Music Hall, 8.10.10

The NME Radar tour is normally a good way of seeing at least a couple of bands that go onto to bigger and better things. It gives you a sense of superiority to be able to tell your mates that you saw The Killers/ Kings of Leon/Westlife (delete as applicable) in a tiny venue, the next time they sell out Wembley Stadium.

And so it was to Cardiff Millennium Music Hall I ventured last Friday to try and improve my potential kudos factor. Actually, I already had a CD by one band, but my interest had been lately taken by the opening act of the trio of bands on show - FLATS.

They are according to the NME “the snotty, grubby-faced antidote to today’s trust-fund shmindie landslide”, whatever that might be. However, to get a realistic idea of their sound, think 747 landing on a runway that’s being broken apart by a pneumatic drill, all with a vocalist shouting over the top. Or to use bands of my era, Discharge meets Crass in the backyard of the Exploited. Now I appreciate this may not wet the appetite of everyone, but I f*cking loved it. They blast through the whole of their set in 13 minutes flat, with little break between songs for either applause or to draw breath. Lead singer Daniel Devine could be the bastard offspring of Steve Ignorant, and their dress sense, i.e. all black, certainly appears to have been borrowed from the anarcho-punk bands of the early ‘80s. Howling guitars from Luke Tristram, thumping bass of Craig E Pierce and military style drumming from Samir Eskanda cause an aural assault the like of which I haven’t heard for 25 years (give or take the odd Jesus & Mary Chain or Place to Bury Strangers track). They leave the stage to a welter of feedback not even bothering to acknowledge the audience. This is how rock stars should be loud, proud and arrogant. Check them out and see the new face of 1977:

The next group are heavily tipped to become big, but in truth CHAPEL CLUB are too achingly cool for me. I suppose this shows the 2 faced attitude most reviewers have. Whilst I can eulogise over the retro punk style of Flats, I find the mid 80’s look of this band rather passé. And I have difficulty looking at the band without musing on the fact that lead guitarist looks like a young Jimmy Carr. Still most people of the growing throng enjoyed them, so who am I to judge. Perhaps I was left cold as I didn’t know any of their tracks, but more likely it’s because I’m an old git stuck in another musical era.

North Wales is not normally known as a hot bed of musical talent, and at a push the only notable band I associate with the region is the Alarm. However, tonight’s headliners THE JOY FORMIDABLE are doing their best to change that perception. The three-piece band from Mold consists of Ritzy Bryan on lead vocals and guitar, Rhydian Dafydd on bass guitar/backing vocals, and Matt Thomas bashing drums and percussion. They have all played previously in other bands, notably Tricky Nixon, but got together in 2007 to form the Joy Formidable. Since then they have toured with the Editors, supported Paul McCartney at his Millennium Stadium gig and been one of the opening acts at this years Glastonbury. Their sound has been likened to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, although The Times described them as “dreamy indie pop”.

The first thing you notice when the band hit the stage is the rather novel way that their line up is positioned. More exactly, the drum kit is running parallel to the side of the stage, and so drummer Matt is constantly looking across the band, rather than out into the audience. They also use a string of light bulbs rapped around the microphone stands, drum riders and bird cages, to give a rather intimate feel to proceedings.

It has to be said that since the days of Blondie and Transvision Vamp, a good way of garnering interest and publicity is to have a pretty blonde lead singer. However, whilst it is undeniable that Ritzy is a charming young lady, to say that this is all they have going for them is unquestionably doing the band a disservice.

The set list is predominantly taken from their mini album “A Balloon Called Moaning”, which they cleverly gave away for free on their Myspace about a year ago. Indeed, that is how I came to know of the band. Since then they have collected quite a hardcore following that was fully evident tonight, as a goodly proportion of the stage-front audience sported rather fetching masks of each member of the band.
We are treated to tracks such as “Austere”, “Cradle”, “Whirring”, “Greyhound in the Slips” and “While the Flies” all of which are well received by the now sizeable crowd. They are certainly accomplished musicians and generate a big sound, given that they are only a trio. The set list will undoubtedly be padded out in future on release of their newly recorded album “The Big Roar”, but for now I am as impressed with their live performance as their recorded efforts. They return for an encore of “The Greatest Light is the Greatest Shade” to nicely round things off.
It remains to be seen if the backing of the NME gives them the desired impetus, but unlike a lot of the bands they’ve previously hyped, they certainly deserve to be heard and seen by a wider audience.

Word : Bones
Pix : NME