A Balloon Called Moaning is evidently very special to the welsh trio The Joy Formidable, for this release is being celebrated as an expanded double-disc release with an accompanying special stripped back welsh language version. Re-issues are nothing new. Poignant albums are constantly being reissued, this difference with A Balloon Called Moaning is that it is not a full-length debut; it is a mini-LP.
The pilgrimage as to where this album was conceived is nothing special: a bedroom. Upon its original release ten years ago, A Balloon Called Moaning received a mixed response, with many unfairly stating that being under thirty minutes long: it was too short. Nonetheless, A Balloon Called Moaning was received with excitement and The Joy Formidable were hotly tipped as a band with a full tank of potential who were just about to set out on a wild ride.
Opening with “The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade”, the distorted synth keys, commands even the most despondent listeners attention and then leads into the anthemic glory of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up”. With the meagre resources at the bands’ disposal; “The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade” is a noble effort. However the superior production effort of Funeral leaves the impression that not all the static left the airwaves when the recording took place.
Single “Cradle” follows suit. The youthful energy (well they were young when they made it) is visible and everlasting. Whilst “Cradle” is not lyrically verbose; Ritzy Bryan’s punk-feminine energy gives “Cradle” both kick and energy and is a perfect teenage outlet of both frustrated and non-frustrated energy. Whilst the production of the following track “Austere” is in many respects too raw and absent of tuning; “Austere” builds layer upon layer of energy form the preceding track, whilst almost laconic; it stimulates some philosophical thought with the lyrics “This hope is not lost. There’s mischief to turn. Your ship to send off” and “You’re just another unfinished story now.”
“While the Flies” continues with the raw, punk inspired energy with Arcade Fire influences. We see bassist Rhydian Dafydd offer his vocal contribution alongside his female band member and partner Ritzy Bryan. Whether it is their failure to harmonise; Dafydd’s contribution does not impact as significantly as Bryan’s. Dafydd’s lyrical contribution soars in significance on “9669”. The raw and punk guitars are ditched for simple folk inspired acoustic guitars. Furthermore Dafydd and Bryan harmonise. The results are beautiful. The chemistry between the couple is still self-evident.
The raw, loud punk guitars return for “The Last Drop”. The punk punches are less deadly than this LP’s earlier efforts but are compensated with some of the lyrical thoughts. “The Last Drop pieces come together, pull the mist like needles, fighting for the leap when we can rise like spirals” will identify with many, particularly the young, trying to piece life together.
Whilst it may not be an expected track to play out an LP; “Ostrich” changes the musical direction of A Balloon Called Moaning. The raw youthful energy is present but the fuzz and muffling are also at their most potent. In some respects despite “Ostrich” feels it outstays its welcome despite it only just protruding slightly over four and a half minutes. Whether it is the mention of religion “St. Martha”, followed by the words “my blood and water” and the prospect of marriage to the “Sea” which concludes with the lines “I guess it’s loneliness, your childhood loneliness, goodbye. And decide it’s ahead or behind” leaves one with the sense of unfinished business; you are ironically left wanting more from The Joy Formidable.
The potential of the welsh three-piece is undeniable. Whilst the recording and tools used to record this mini-LP are humble; new, young and emerging artists looking to release their debut mini-LP or LP would be expected to have significantly higher sound engineering deftness. In many respects, the sound is superior on the stripped down Welsh-language rendition of A Balloon Called Moaning. Despite there being aspects of A Balloon Called Moaning requiring constructive criticism; it also has hope and potential. These things must be given their right and responsibility to shine.