Creating something new and different within a genre that, by its very nature, is fairly restrictive can seem next to impossible. With a style as insular and relatively straightforward as shoegaze, there’s little a band can do to deviate much from the rote formula of massive, fuzzed out guitars, and detached, ethereal vocals. As with any genre there are of course exceptions and those who deviate slightly from the formula, but by and large there is an expected and accepted sound that causes a specific band to be categorized accordingly.
In the case of Montreal’s No Joy, shoegaze is an apt descriptor, one that serves as a fine approximation of what the group sounds like on both their early releases and their latest, More Faithful. But the underlying difference between No Joy and their fellow shoegaze revivalists, and what ultimately finds them creating something new and different at least within the most recent crop of shoegazers, lies in both the complexity of their instrumental interplay and the immediacy of each song’s melody.
Rather than simply relying on colossal washes of sound to carry scant compositions, No Joy’s songs stand on their own with a pop sensibility that goes beyond the genre’s general reliance on sheer volume to infuse each with a melodicism often lacking. Taking diligent notes on their favorite My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins and Slowdive albums, No Joy distills the best elements of each into a near perfect amalgamation of modern-day shoegaze.
So distorted and densely structured are the guitar lines that it takes several listens to even begin parsing out the melodic intricacy on display. While Jasamine White-Gluz and Laura Lloyd’s vocals are the most prominent and immediate hook on More Faithful, their guitar work proves equally compelling. Awash in a sea of effects that mask their immediacy and the attention they deserve, each line requires dedicated attention to stand out from the mass of sound that, combined, they create.
On “Hollywood Teeth” they rush forth with an urgency often lacking in the genre, guitars keening beneath the lovely harmonizing of White-Gluz and Lloyd. Still employing the requisite detached vocal delivery, they manage a perfect pairing of their tonally similar voices, an effortless meshing that helps draw attention to the songs as a whole rather than the individual voices. By “Moon In My Mouth” they are playing off one another vocally in a manner akin to their guitar interplay with a gorgeous sense of ease that carries through the whole of the album.
“I Am An Eye Machine” is effortlessly propulsive, floating along on a sea of brittle guitars and hushed vocals reminiscent of the genre’s heyday. It’s a track that would not have sounded out of place on any number of albums emanating from the UK some twenty-five years ago. Slowdive-esque, it lumbers to a massive outro that continues to build upon itself until it threatens to collapse under its own weight. While reminiscent of other groups, it is by no means derivative or reductive in its approach. Rather it functions as the group’s homage to its influences while furthering the genre’s potential.
Growing all the more discernable and immediate with each listen, More Faithful proves itself to be an impressive statement from the group, one that finds No Joy transcending their influences and proves them worthy of inclusion in the same breath as the genre’s biggest names. More Faithful could well prove the new template from which subsequent generations draw inspiration.
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