Biffy Clyro


Written by: TL on 09/02/2013 16:10:14

It took me 'til 2009's "Only Revolutions" to figure it out, but since then I've been stern in my opinion that not only are Biffy Clyro one of my most favourite bands in the world, they're also the best band in Scotland, a country in no shortage of great, great bands. With three underground gems and now three mainstream-breaching releases under their belt, the trio from Kilmarnock are a band uniquely freeze-framed mid-leap between being a mathy, alternative rock sensation and the closest thing Scotland has to their own Foo Fighters-esque arena shakers.

Still, when I realised that 6th album "Opposites" was going to be a double album, I had to do a double take and check my excitement, because let's be real here: double albums are always a bad idea. Always. Especially considering that my impression from their b-sides album "Lonely Revolutions" was that "Only Revolutions" had certainly benefitted tremendously from having some of its wilder ideas trimmed, I've had to wonder - Biffy Clyro may very well be the mighty Biffy Clyro - but isn't a double album a pretty impossible challenge to consistency, even for them?

To begin with the answer seems no, with even the album's title hinting that here are two discs that have individual merit, and with disc one - dubbed "The Land At The End Of Our Toes" - exploding like fireworks in the listener's face, frequently demonstrating just how good Biffy have gotten at writing the BIG chorus especially on its first half. Leading single "Black Chandelier" is irresistably catchy with the arena-swagger of the riff that lifts it from pre-chorus to chorus, and similarly both "Sounds Like Balloons" and "Biblical" mount refrains that will ruin throats all along the band's upcoming tours, with blooming synths further pumping the power that was flashed on "Only Revolutions". Meanwhile fans of the Scotsmen's slower side get their fill with "Opposites" and the quirky "The Joke's On Us", while those who like the fast stuff can raise their pulse with "Little Hospitals" and "A Girl And His Cat", the latter charming you with typical ear-popping Biffy lyricism in the chorus going "nothing ventured, nothing maimed [...] beauty is the death of pain".

As for "Opposites" disc two - "The Sand At The Core Of Our Bones" - I'm actually not quite sure I've fully grasped how exactly it is supposed to be the yin to disc one's yang, but one thing that strikes me is that even if "The Land..." had its fair share of crazy Biffy-style guitar riffs, it eventually seems rather tightly structured around its choruses compared to the more expansive tracks on "The Sand...", which feel longer - even if they aren't always - by giving room to flirtations with all sorts of different horns and bagpipes. In many ways it feels like Biffy are marrying the available prodution power of their current status, to the self-indulgent, experimental musicality that characterised their earlier off kilter releases like "Infinity Land" and "Vertigo Of Bliss".

The exception to this impression is almost the best part about "The Sand..." however, with "Pocket" coming off immensely charming via an extremely poppy chord signature and little else. Among the disc's more symptomatic tracks however, opener "Stingin' Belle", "Victory Over The Sun" and "Accident Without Emergency" stick to the mind some, while the songs that line up down the stretch do increasingly feel like they're relevant primarily for the diehard fans.

Yet if Biffy Clyro played a show with a setlist consisting of just the least remarkable songs from "Opposites", that show would still be more dynamic and more electrifying than most. But here's where the curse of the double album makes its mark: Because these songs inevitably seem lesser, mixed in between the comparatively stronger ones on offer. The wealth of material inevitably make a marathon of trying to explore "Opposites" in depth - to the point where you might have to listen to its halves as two different records to fit any sense of coherency in the width of your mind's perspective. Otherwise it's hard to not just notice a lot of sparkling highlights instead of getting a real feel for the identity and the whole of each song.

So my question is if it wouldn't have been more fair to each of the many good songs that Biffy Clyro have written here, to have put them on two, more separate releases? Even if you substituted the tracks towards the end of "The Land..." that I think are its weakest, with the strongest from "The Sand...", I still think the 'lesser' of the two products would be a 7½ record at worst - But the point is that it might feel like an 8 when left to shine with less contest. An even more urgent question though, as this review draws to a close, is that if you have an album's worth of material that's easily worth 8½, and an album's worth that's at least 7½, does them being bundled up still not drag them below the golden medium of 8? If I were to follow my own logic, the answer would be yes, but somehow the energy that flows unobstructed from Simon Neil and the Johnston brothers, when they belt out their best choruses, is simply so rare and contagious that going there still feels all sorts of wrong and unfair. These moments make you feel like you just won a world championship, so for your own sake, do give one of the best rock bands on the globe the time they deserve - Even if they have gone just a bit over the top on this one:


Download: Black Chandelier, Sounds Like Balloons, Biblical, A Girl And His Cat, The Joke's On Us, Pocket, Accident Without Emergency
For The Fans Of: Twin Atlantic, Foo Fighters, The Xcerts, InMe

Release Date 28.01.2013
14th Floor Records

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